Dr. Manu Prakash, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, and his team have developed a computer that runs by reading the physics of moving water droplets. It’s the first of its kind.
It’s a remarkable technological advancement as Dr. Prakash first came up with the idea when he was still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ten (10) years ago. He only recently finished the project with the help of graduate student assistants Jim Cybulski and Georgios Katsikis.
They built a computer clock that moves and manipulates drops of water that are trapped inside a magnetic field. Computer clock systems are found at the center of every computer responsible for keeping operations moving in sync.
Prakash explained in his report just how important designing this system was, as the very thing that made digital logic immensely powerful in the first place is that all the operations happen synchronously.
This particular computer clock closely resembles a maze made using iron bars that sit in oil. The entire system is enclosed in two (2) glass slides and the water drops introduced inside the system have to be infused with magnetic nanoparticles. After that it simply becomes a matter of turning on the magnetic field.
What this does is send the clock into a set of rotations and flips that could last forever. The polarity of the iron bars changes every time the magnetic field flips, which causes the drops of water to one spot at a time throughout the maze.
A binary code of 1s and 0s is used to inform of the presence or absence of each drop, in each spot, after every flip, and a camera documents the interactions between them, allowing for the researchers to observe the computation in real time.
While the droplet computer is believed to be able to perform every operation that typical electric computers can, it does unfortunately move at a much slower rate.
That’s ok with Dr. Prakash who never intended for the technology to be commercialized and compete with current electric computers that process daily information.
He gave a statement revealing that “Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter. 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”.
Dr. Prakash is currently working on figuring out how to turn his invention into a chemistry and biology laboratory that replaces test tubes with drops of water that carry chemicals and offer unparallel control over the interactions between them.
Image Source: sciencealert.com