Scientists Turn Water Droplets into Simple Computer [Video]

Researchers at Aalto University have created a new concept for computing, using tiny drops of water as bits of encoded information.

Researchers at Aalto University have devised a way to convert water into digital information, building a simple computer out of just water droplets and a water-repellant surface.

To conduct the study published in Advanced Materials, scientists used a copper surface coated with silver and chemically modified with a fluorinated compound.

As a result, researches developed the method which enables “the surface to be so water-repellent that water droplets roll off when the surface is tilted slightly”.

Superhydrophobic tracks, examined during a previous study, were employed for guiding droplets along designed paths, reports The Science Daily.

With the help of these tracks, the researchers showed that drops of water could be turned into technology, “superhydrophobic droplet logic.”

The team of scientists responsible for the research released a video, which shows the results.

“The stationary droplet is sitting in a depression that has the shape of an 8. Each side of depression is slightly off-axis, so that when the moving droplet hits the stationary one, it kicks the droplet at an angle,” explains the rep in comments to the video.

“As in classical mechanics, the first moving droplet is going into the other direction (and slows down as it transfers momentum) and lands into the other depression.”

“The device really acts as a 1-but memory, remembering its previous state. The memory can be read out by sending a droplet from the left,” he adds.

“The “memory droplet” in the middle then will go into one of the two output tracks depending on the memory state. We can call the upper track on the right “1” and the lower track “0”.

For example, a memory device was created where water droplets act as bits of digital information. Which is more, throughout the study devices for elementary Boolean logic operations were demonstrated. These simple devices are used in building blocks for computing.

“Furthermore, when the water droplets are loaded with reactive chemical cargo, the onset of a chemical reaction could be controlled by droplet collisions,” The Silence Daily writes.

When the collision-controlled chemical reactions are in combination with droplet, logic operations enables programmable chemical reactions where single droplets serve simultaneously as miniature reactors and bits for computing.

“It is fascinating to observe a new physical phenomenon for such everyday objects – water droplets,” says Robin Ras, an Academy Research Fellow in the Molecular Materials research group.

A member of the research group, Henrikki Mertaniemi, who discovered the rebounding droplet collisions two years ago during a summer student project in the research group of Ras and Academy Professor Olli Ikkala explained:

“I was surprised that such rebounding collisions between two droplets were never reported before, as it indeed is an easily accessible phenomenon.”

He went on, adding: “I conducted some of the early experiments on water-repellent plant leaves from my mother’s garden.”

The scientists, involved in the research, believe that the received results would enable technology based on superhydrophobic droplet logic.

In addition to those mentioned above, possible applications include “autonomous simple logic devices not requiring electricity, and programmable biochemical analysis devices.”

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