Researchers report novel collision-based computing technique

November 15, 2017, University of the West of England
Researchers report novel collision-based computing technique
Credit: University of the West of England

Researchers have published a paper that demonstrations the first laboratory experiment to use liquid marbles to create collision-based computation in research.

The paper, titled "Liquid Marble Interaction Gate for Collision-Based Computing" is published by Elsevier in Materials Today. The research is led by Professor Andy Adamatzky and Dr Ben De Lacy Costello.

Liquid marbles (LMs) are liquid droplets that are encapsulated in a coating of hydrophobic particles (i.e. that don't like water), such as powdered metal or other materials. When coated, the droplets are self-enclosed and can be used to move around or manipulate very small volumes of liquid (10 microliters), while the reactions are compartmentalised in the droplets.

Dr Ben De Lacy Costello explains the liquid marbles, "How do we move a drop of water from one place to the other? Aphids have developed their own method – they produce a sugary solution that they coat in a sticky wax, which enables them to be move the liquid around.

"Scientists using microfluidics for medical applications usually treat the surface to make it hydrophobic so that the move freely across the surface, but other scientists working with this technology treat the drops themselves, similar to aphids, by covering them in hydrophobic particles-creating liquid marbles."

Researchers at the University of the West of England, (UWE Bristol) working in Unconventional Computing have experimented with LMs as a method of computation, as part of their research developing methods of information processing and computing in physical, chemical and biological systems.

Professor Andy Adamatzky explains, "We wondered could these ball-like objects could be used for physical computation by making them collide with each other, so we could make proper circuits? Inspired by computing concepts that involve colliding spheres, our research aims to make physical computers based on liquid marbles. This approach allows marbles to be delivered to specific locations by controlled collisions between the marbles.

"This is important because these marbles are delivering a chemical or even biological cargo. Our collision based computing schemes control what happens to the cargo, for example some high velocity collisions cause marbles to fuse and the contents to mix with the possibility of starting reactions and making new products, other collisions just guide the single marbles to their final destinations."

The team used the LMs to create an experiment in collision-based computing, using the intersection of the LMs as a logic gate. LMs with an electromagnetic coating were set up to move in a framework and when they collided a computation occurred. The LMs are given information values and where a signal interacts this is a logic gate – similar to the logic functions inherent in conventional computing.

Professor Adamatzky says, "Our experiment demonstrates the potential to create alternative forms of computing using the LMs to create . The computing devices we made with LMs are completely mechanical, and have the benefits of not requiring any specialised knowledge to operate. The prototypes are will be simple, durable and inexpensive to manufacture."

While still at a very early stage, this experiment demonstrates the capacity for an entirely new form of computation, which uses the innate abilities of materials to make computational decisions.

Explore further: Gas marbles able to roll around in the hand could be used to store gasses

More information: Thomas C. Draper et al. Liquid marble interaction gate for collision-based computing, Materials Today (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2017.09.004

Related Stories

Smart materials: Fused liquid marbles show their strength

July 31, 2013

'Liquid marbles' are a peculiar new substance made by rolling water droplets into powders incapable of dissolving in water. The resulting micro- and nanoscale-particles act like soft solids, and can speed along surfaces without ...

Recommended for you

Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics

February 23, 2018

Researchers have demonstrated that tiny micrometer-sized crystals—just barely visible to the human eye—can "walk" inchworm-style across the slide of a microscope. Other crystals are capable of different modes of locomotion ...

Recurrences in an isolated quantum many-body system

February 23, 2018

It is one of the most astonishing results of physics—when a complex system is left alone, it will return to its initial state with almost perfect precision. Gas particles, for example, chaotically swirling around in a container, ...

Seeing nanoscale details in mammalian cells

February 23, 2018

In 2014, W. E. Moerner, the Harry S. Mosher Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for co-developing a way of imaging shapes inside cells at very high resolution, called super-resolution ...

Hauling antiprotons around in a van

February 22, 2018

A team of researchers working on the antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation (PUMA) project near CERN's particle laboratory, according to a report in Nature, plans to capture a billion antiprotons, put them in a shipping ...

Urban heat island effects depend on a city's layout

February 22, 2018

The arrangement of a city's streets and buildings plays a crucial role in the local urban heat island effect, which causes cities to be hotter than their surroundings, researchers have found. The new finding could provide ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.