A Water Droplet-Based Computer
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Sunday, 09 September 2012

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.

 

dropgate

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 idea, Superhydrophobic Droplet Logic, could be used to build a water drop-based computer - but why?

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.

More Information

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).

Related Articles

A Crab-Based Computer

Slime Mold Simulates Canadian Transport System

blog comments powered by Disqus

To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, install the I Programmer Toolbar, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow us on, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Linkedin,  or sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Banner


Google Frees Up More Patents
28/08/2014

Google has added 152 patents to the list of ones you can copy in your own open-source version and are covered by its OPN Pledge, whereby Google won't sue unless it is sued first.



Bing Developer Assistant
20/08/2014

The new plug in from Microsoft that helps developers find code snippets and samples is available for Visual Studio 2012 and 2013. It has been created by combining two existing Visual Studio extensions [ ... ]


More News

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 14 September 2012 )
 
 

   
RSS feed of news items only
I Programmer News
Copyright © 2014 i-programmer.info. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.