Computers and water typically don't mix, but in Dr. Manu Prakash's lab, this is precisely not the case, the two are one and the same!
Dr. Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, along with his students has developed a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets. Their objective is to design a new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter.
The computer took nearly a decade in the making, incubated from an idea that struck Prakash when he was a graduate student. The work combines his expertise in manipulating droplet fluid dynamics with a fundamental element of computer science – an operating clock.
"In this work, we finally demonstrate a synchronous, universal droplet logic and control…because of its universal nature; the droplet computer can theoretically perform any operation that a conventional electronic computer can crunch, although at significantly slower rates. We already have digital computers to process information. Our goal is not to compete with electronic computers or to operate word processors on this," Dr. Prakash said.
Dr. Prakash and his colleagues, however, have a more ambitious application in mind. "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 added.
According to the researchers involved, the ability to precisely control droplets using fluid computation could have a number of applications in high-throughput biology and chemistry, and can generate some new applications in the scalable digital manufacturing.
The results are published in the current edition of Nature Physics.