Researchers claim that ripples and imperfections in liquid crystals could be used to build a new type of computer.
Researchers have found a way to build a new type of computer using liquid crystals instead of silicon. The computer would be built using the orientation of the liquid crystal molecules – similar to those found in LCD TVs – to store data, with calculations expected to look like “ripples” through the liquid.
Liquid crystals consist of rod-shaped molecules that slosh around like a fluid. These molecules are mostly parallel to each other, to the point of the odd molecule that faces the wrong way having to be removed for the development of TV screens.
The information, unlike in traditional computers, will not be stored but will be translated into a series of defective orientations, where every different degree of misalignment with other molecules would codify a specific value. As the device does not use binary bits, it could process an amount of information analogous to that of quantum computers.
Once the data is stored the computer will use electric fields to manipulate the molecules and perform basic calculations in a similar way to standard logic gates.
To test their approach the researchers first drew up theories to describe how such calculations would take place. Then they created simulations based on their theories (showing a four-bit configuration realising universal classical NOR and NAND gates) and found that their ideas appeared to work.
If successful, the computer design made by Žiga Kos at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and Jörn Dunkel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would provide an alternative to electronics for the building of computers.