Engineers at Stanford University have developed a computer based on water droplets. The computer works based on the laws of water-based fluid dynamics and relies on moving water droplets to evaluate logic. It has been worked on for nearly ten years, and is now fully built. A detailed report of the research leading to this new type of computer was published in the Natural Physics journal.
Water computer can control physical matter.
The revolutionary aspect of this new computer is the fact that it can be used to manipulate physical matter. It belongs to a new class of computers that isn’t designed with the same goals in mind as your laptop or desktop PC. It can perform the same exact operations as those “regular” computers, but at much slower rates. The main trick to this water computer is its movement of physical matter as a means of evaluating computations.
How does the water computer work?
The team of scientists built a little maze of minuscule iron bars on glass slides. They then injected a layer of oil in between the glass slides. After that, the researchers injected a few water individual water droplets infused with magnetic nanoparticles. Once that step was complete, they’d turn on the magnetic field. Every time the field would flip, the water droplets would be pulled in a new, predetermined direction. One polarity flip counts as one clock cycle, and each drop goes forward one step with each cycle. This computer, much like a normal one, works in binary. The presence or absence of a water droplet represents a 1 or a 0. The team of scientists has already shown that the magnetic water droplet-based computer can be used to build any Boolean logic circuit, just by changing the location of the bars on the chip.
What are some possible future applications for this new type of computer?
The fact that these new water-based computers move actual physical matter (water drops) means that they could have many applications in the fields of biology, chemistry, and scalable digital manufacturing. Specifically, researchers see the computers being put to use in high-throughput biology and chemistry laboratory applications.