How to make a water powered clock?
PALO ALTO, Calif., June 9 (UPI) - A water-powered clock - it sounds like a gimmick. But Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, says he and his students are aiming to build a whole new class of computers.
Prakesh isn't building a computer recognizable to consumers. It's a synchronous computer, or computerized clock. But what makes it special is that it can manipulate and process both information and physical material - that and it operates using the physics of water droplets.
"We already have digital computers to process information. Our goal is not to compete with electronic computers or to operate word processors on this, " Prakash said in a press release. "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, " he added.
The fluid-powered computer uses a rotating motherboard made of glass slides and tiny iron bars. Each time the motherboard turns, the electromagnetic field flips, pulling tiny water droplets infused with magnetic nanoparticles. As the clock continues to turn, the water droplets march along one step at a time, following the predetermined logic of the computer system.
"Following these rules, we've demonstrated that we can make all the universal logic gates used in electronics, simply by changing the layout of the bars on the chip, " said Georgios Katsikis, a grad student Prakesh recruited to help him build the computer. "The actual design space in our platform is incredibly rich. Give us any Boolean logic circuit in the world, and we can build it with these little magnetic droplets moving around."
Because their computer system is so small, and their clock mechanism so simple and seemingly error-free, researchers believe their work is infinitely scalable.
"We can keep making it smaller and smaller so that it can do more operations per time, so that it can work with smaller droplet sizes and do more number of operations on a chip, " explained graduate student and co-author Jim Cybulski. "That lends itself very well to a variety of applications."
The researchers are now making the motherboards available to the public, with the hope that other science teams can find new applications for their water clock and build new types of physical computers.