Researchers at the University of Stanford have developed a synchronous computer which uses the physics of water droplets motion in order to function. The purpose of the invention is to create a new class of computers which are able to control and manipulate physical matter. The paper was published in the journal Nature Physics.
The research team led by assistant professor Manu Prakash has created a new type of computer processor which instead of using electrons, it is built around moving water. However this new kind of computer does not have the purpose to replace the processor which you are already using to power your mobile device or computer. Although the device can reproduce mathematical logic operations this creation is seen as a future way to control physical matter.
This computer is provided with small iron bars in the shape of “I” and “T” which are strategically placed between two pieces of glass. Individual water drops containing magnetic nanoparticles are injected into the mix. Afterwards the platform is encased in a magnetic field which has the purpose of manipulating the directions of the magnetized drops of water.
The droplets will move in a certain pattern depending on how the small metal pieces are arranged. In this case the droplets were filled with tiny iron particles, but they can in fact be a mixture of different substances or materials. That is why this computer can be employed to arrange droplets of various chemicals. It is as if the device is a small factory or a miniature 3D printer. If one day it will be small enough people could swallow it and medication will be produced on the fly. It can even help repairing the human body.
The small drops of liquid which move around look similarly to the black goo used in a ferrofluid toy. This is how they are manipulated by the magnetic field.
Using fluidic computation to control droplets is something which could be applied in chemistry, high-throughput biology and even in scalable digital manufacturing.
“We’re very interested in engaging anybody and everybody who wants to play, to enable everyone to design new circuits based on building blocks we describe in this paper or discover new blocks. Right now, anyone can put these circuits together to form a complex droplet processor with no external control – something that was a very difficult challenge previously.”