The implementation of the idea of liquid computers would be revolutionary for microfluidics, not because microfluidics seeks computational capabilities but because it would enable the encoding of a variety of algorithms (laboratory procedures) into the structure of the device.
Researchers show the successful implementation of advanced sequential logic in droplet microfluidics, whose principles rely on capillary wells establishing stationary states, where droplets can communicate remotely via pressure impulses, influencing each other and switching the device states. All logic operations perform spontaneously due to utilizing nothing more than capillary–hydrodynamic interactions, inherent for the confined biphasic flow.
The approach offers integration feasibility allowing to encode unprecedentedly long algorithms, e.g., 1000-droplet counting. This work has the potential for the advancement of liquid computers and thereby could participate in developing the next generation of portable microfluidic systems with embedded control, enabling applications from single-cell analysis and biochemical assays to materials science.
Researchers are interested in two-phase flows in microchannels, where droplets can form and be used as miniature laboratory beakers. Microfluidics has developed droplet manipulation techniques that enable splitting, merging, and positioning operations. Any laboratory procedure can be implemented using the combinatorial sequences of base operations. The precision, low reagent consumption, and automation capabilities make this technology increasingly appealing for biological and chemical experiments.
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