The University of Stanford assistant professor Manu Prakash is the lead inventor of a synchronous computer working on water droplets.
Both assistant professor Manu Prakash and his team are excited about their creation the idea of which was born several years ago when Prakash was still an graduate student. The aim of the team is to use the synchronous computer both control, as well as manipulate physical matter at large.
The idea is ingenious and while it does not aim at replacing digital computers or devices as we know them, the team envisions a greater goal for their creation. Since now the module for manipulating and analyzing physical matter is created, digital computers look somewhat outdated from this perspective.
The new synchronous computer makes algorithmic manipulation of physical matter possible at the mesoscale. Its purpose is not to process words, but to thoroughly control and analyze matter that is run through it.
The system operates by combining the dynamics of droplet fluids with an operating clock. The latter is the basis of any computational device that we can immediately identify next to us. It is an absolute necessary mechanism to set things in motion and it can take many forms.
For Prakash’s creation, the clock is a magnetic field through which iron-particle bearing water droplets circulate. The droplet has an universal nature. Due to this aspect, the synchronous computer is capable of performing any other operation that a digital computer can.
The ambitious project is looking at chemistry or biology as fields of application. As assistant professor Prakash stated:
“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.”
Bulk test tubes are usual in chemistry for instance. Due to the characteristics of the computer that Prakash described, instead of this analyzing method, each droplet that runs through the computer could become a test tube of its own if carrying a chemical molecule.
The current building block that represents this computer is made of microchips, while the droplets caught in the magnetic field are the size of poppy seeds or smaller. The Stanford team indicated that in time, they could get even smaller than they are now, without losing their capability to control and process millions of droplets.
The development process and the specific features and applications of the synchronous computer are published in the journal Nature Physics.
Image Source: YouTube