New computer technology has been applied at Stanford University to create computers that run, not on electricity as we understand it, but that use water physics and magnetism to power the units.
This new technology is described in the journal, Nature Physics, published on June 8. You can read the full report here.
As Tech Times describes, “to make the device work, Prakash and colleagues set arrays of small iron bars on glass slides set up into something that looked like the maze in the game Pac-man. The researchers laid a black glass slide on top with a layer of oil sandwiched in between, then infused single water droplets with magnetic nano particles into the mix.”
Prakash explains in the YouTube video released by Stanford University, that the water droplets are used as small beakers to carry many different types of information, including chemical or biological information and that any type of logical process or equation can then be applied to manipulate the actual physical materials.
This water-based computer processing is much different than our typical electronic computer in that it functions as a physical laboratory at the same time as it executes logical processing commands.
See how the new water droplet computer works in the video below.
The coils of wire create a magnetic field that functions as a clock, or a timer, that controls the release of each water droplet. The binary coding is created by the timing of the droplets, and actual physical manipulation of the material carried within the water droplet takes place based on the commands produced by the timing of the release of each water droplet.
Popular Science refers to this new way of computing as “surprising” and notes that plans are being made to release the design of the water droplet computer to the public.
Smithsonian notes that the exciting new computer design was ten years in the making, and that the team hopes to produce a much smaller version that can perform many operations much more quickly. The team has demonstrated that the water droplet computer can be used for everything that is key for basic computation, including logic gates and feedback that define what a computer is.
A recent press release from Stanford includes contact information for the team that created the water droplet technology, and explains that the entire goal was to bring forward a brand new type of computer for public use.
“A camera records the interactions between individual droplets, allowing observation of computation as it occurs in real time. The presence or absence of a droplet represents the 1s and 0s of binary code, and the clock ensures that all the droplets move in perfect synchrony, and thus the system can run virtually forever without any errors.”
Perpetual motion, fluid mechanics, nano particles, and miniature laboratories — this new computer design is sure to be applied in many different ways over the next few years.
[Photo and video courtesy of Stanford University.]