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Computing with Fluids

Manu Prakash


In this talk, I will discuss an emerging intersection of physical science and computer science, starting with a historical perspective in all-fluidic computation from the 60’s. Advances in modern microfluidics lead to renewed interests in fluidic mechanisms for coding and computation in fluids. With absence of inertial forces at low Reynolds numbers in small geometries, we were faced with exploring new non-linearities that are intrinsic in multi-phase microfluidics. I will briefly describe our motivations for inventing a universal digital logic family in multi-phase microfluidics that utilizes drops and bubbles to compute. This first logic family was asynchronous leading to timing errors. Next, I will discuss latest advances from our lab that finally demonstrate a new synchronous universal droplet fluidic logic family and control. We will discuss scaling laws and demonstrate cascadable universal logic, feedback, fan-out and non-volatile ring memory. The presented platform opens up a scalable means to both program and manipulate matter and information simultaneously in integrated microfluidic systems. Exploring applications of microfluidics in low-resource settings and global health, I will finally describe a new platform we have recently invented that enables programmable microfluidics using old-school “punch card” tapes.

I will close the talk with (slightly unrelated) but fascinating demonstration of an artificial fluidic analogue of biological chemotaxis.


Manu Prakash is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. Manu also serves as a core member of graduate program in Biophysics and an affiliate of Woods Institute of the Environment at Stanford University.

He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following his doctoral work, he was a Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellow in Physics. In summer 2011, he joined the faculty at Stanford University where he runs a curiosity driven lab focusing on organismic biophysics and “frugal science.” In 2014, Manu was selected as MIT Tech Review TR35 and Popular Science Brilliant 10.

Manu Prakash Headshot
Manu Prakash
Stanford University
EEB 105
5 Jan 2016, 10:30am until 11:30am