Standford University scientist Manu Prakash and his team of students have developed a computer that can operate using the fundamental physics principle of moving water droplets generate energy, which may heral new class of computers altogether based on manipulating water droplets for energy.
Ever since he was a graduate student, Prakash tossed with the idea of ussing little droplets as bits of information and utilize the precise movement of those drops to process both information and physical materials simultaneously. He first created a rotating magnetic field that could act as clock to synchronize all the droplets.
When the idea looked more promising, Prakash and his graduate student Georgios “Yorgos” Katsikis, worked on manipulating droplet fluid dynamics with an operating clock, demonstrating “a synchronous, universal droplet logic and control.”
The droplet computer can theoretically perform any task like the conventional electronic computer but currently at slower speed and the team hopes to fasten the process in due course. The team is focusing on both information processing as well as algorithmically manipulating physical matter.
“Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers… Imagine if when you run a set of computations that not only information is processed but physical matter is algorithmically manipulated as well. We have just made this possible at the mesoscale,” says Prakash.
The ability to precisely control droplets using fluidic computation could have a number of applications in high-throughput biology and chemistry, and possibly new applications in scalable digital manufacturing.
Their paper, published in the journal Nature Physics, describes the fundamental operating regime and demonstrates building blocks for synchronous logic gates, feedback and cascadability, which are required for scalable computation.
They have demonstrated a simple-state machine including 1-bit memory storage, known as “flip-flop” using the above building blocks.