It is surprising what you can build a computer out of - crabs, slime mold and chemicals of all kinds. Now we have an example of a computer that makes use of water droplets.
Fluidic computers are nothing new, but they use continuous streams of fluid - usually air or water - steered by small control jets of fluid. The latest computer to use water makes use of a different principle and the computing medium, i.e. the bits, are tiny drops of water.
The idea is to take a plate of silver-plated copper and cut some grooves. The grooves are coated with a fluorine-based water repellent. The water repellent causes individual droplets to stay as spherical drops while rolling along the grooves. Each droplet represents a bit of information and logic gates can be implemented using a collision mechanism, not unlike the one used to implement the AND gate in the very strange "crab" based computer we recently covered.
Photo of NOT/FANOUT Gate
For example, in the video below you can see a combined AND/OR gate in operation:
Notice that the channel to the left outputs a bit, i.e. a drop, for each drop that enters at the top left or top right. This makes it an OR gate. The output to the right only outputs a drop when two drops enter the input channels at the same time. This makes it an AND gate.
The resulting computer would need no power and could be a good way of implementing simple logic devices. One possible more advanced application is that each water drop could carry a chemical payload. By switching the drops they could be routed to different locations and when bits were amalgamated they could produce different chemical reactions. This could be a step on the road to a chemical printer.
If this seems unlikely, watch it work in the next video:
Personally, the way that the drops move is so fascinating that I really don't think you need an application to justify the existence of a water drop computer. If you are not convinced, take a look at the video of a water drop flip-flop:
Of course the flip-flop is the basis for memory and timing systems, but it is also mesmerizing to watch.
Perhaps there is a market for it as an executive toy!
So the next time you say that your computer is running like treacle - it just might be.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.201202980 Mertaniemi H., Forchheimer R., Ikkala O., and Ras R.H.A., Rebounding droplet-droplet collisions on superhydrophobic surfaces: from the phenomenon to droplet logic, Advanced Materials (2012).
Smart Lock for Passwords, Instance ID, new APIs for Google Cloud Messaging and Google Cast, access to the Google Maps API on Android Wear devices and API enhancements for Google Fit are all incl [ ... ]
A year after launching a public beta GitHub's open-source code editor Atom has gone stable. Atom 1.0 has improved performance and support for ES6 language features and no longer has limitations o [ ... ]