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Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Microfluidic Bubble Logic

In the current issue of Science, Manu Prakash and Neil Gershenfeld report on their work with "bubble logic" [pdf]:

"We demonstrate universal computation in an all-fluidic two-phase microfluidic system. A bubble traveling in a channel represents a bit, providing us with the capability to simultaneously transport material and perform logical control operations. We demonstrate bubble logic, AND/OR/NOT gates, a toggle flip flop, a ripple counter, timing restoration, a ring oscillator, and an elebro-bubble modulator. These show the show the nonlinearity, gain, bistability, synchronization, cascadability, feedback and programmability required for scalable universal computation...

Having shown the required properties of a scalable logic family, they can be used to create complex microfluidic circuits capabile of performing arbitrary fluid process control and computation in an integrated fashion. Such circuits may reduce the size, cost, and complexity of current microfluidic systems, thereby enabling the development of very large-scale microfluidic reactors for use in areas including combinatorial chemistry and drug discovery. These bubble logic processors, where a bit of information can also carry a chemical payload, merge chemistry with computation."

While this kind of development may seem far afield from the kind of information we normally explore on radar, it's one of many signs of the coming convergence of bits and atoms, the infusion of stuff with computing. Integrate along the lines of sight to the future that include FPGAs, and at the macro level, personal fabrication, ubiquitous sensors and controllers, and the various explorations of makers at the macro level, designers starting to think about physical computing, and you see a future in which objects are infused with computing, and the boundaries between hardware and software start to blur.

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Comments: 1

monopole   [02.16.07 12:14 PM]

Um, just check out conservative computing and reversible logic, DNA computing or optical computing for folks considering physical computing. Hell, quantum computing is intrinsically physical.

That said, this is neat stuff, particularly for mixing and distributing chemicals, Quite a bit of inkjet tech will have an impact on this.

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