Stanford invented a computer that runs on water droplets

A new class of computer is born.


Mike Wehner


Published Jun 10, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 3:10 pm CDT

Getting water on your computer is usually a recipe for disaster, but researchers at Stanford feel quite differently. In fact, they’ve developed a computer that is designed specifically to operate using fluid droplets as data.

The fluid-based computations performed by the prototype are essentially the same as those performed by its electronic counterparts, but the addition of material manipulation means that it could be used for applications that traditional computers simply couldn’t perform. Where today’s computers produce electronic data as information, Stanford’s new rig could process both information and physical material at the same time.

The team’s current setup, with magnetic coils and a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp, is a fairly modest implementation of the concept, but the concept could be applied on a much larger scale as well. 

Screengrab via Stanford/YouTube

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*First Published: Jun 10, 2015, 3:04 pm CDT