We demonstrate universal computation in an all-fluidic two-phase microfluidic system. Nonlinearity is introduced into an otherwise linear, reversible, low–Reynolds number flow via bubble-to-bubble hydrodynamic interactions. A bubble traveling in a channel represents a bit, providing us with the capability to simultaneously transport materials and perform logical control operations. We demonstrate bubble logic AND/OR/NOT gates, a toggle flip-flop, a ripple counter, timing restoration, a ring oscillator, and an electro–bubble modulator. These show the nonlinearity, gain, bistability, synchronization, cascadability, feedback, and programmability required for scalable universal computation. With increasing complexity in large-scale microfluidic processors, bubble logic provides an on-chip process control mechanism integrating chemistry and computation.
Controlling the wetting behaviour of liquids on surfaces is important for a variety of industrial applications such as water-repellent coatings and lubrication. Liquid behaviour on a surface can range from complete spreading, as in the 'tears of wine' effect, to minimal wetting as observed on a superhydrophobic lotus leaf. Controlling droplet movement is important in microfluidic liquid handling, on self-cleaning surfaces and in heat transfer. Droplet motion can be achieved by gradients of surface energy. However, existing techniques require either a large gradient or a carefully prepared surface to overcome the effects of contact line pinning, which usually limit droplet motion. Here we show that two-component droplets of well-chosen miscible liquids such as propylene glycol and water deposited on clean glass are not subject to pinning and cause the motion of neighbouring droplets over a distance. Unlike the canonical predictions for these liquids on a high-energy surface, these droplets do not spread completely but exhibit an apparent contact angle. We demonstrate experimentally and analytically that these droplets are stabilized by evaporation-induced surface tension gradients and that they move in response to the vapour emitted by neighbouring droplets. Our fundamental understanding of this robust system enabled us to construct a wide variety of autonomous fluidic machines out of everyday materials.
The variability of bird beak morphology reflects diverse foraging strategies. One such feeding mechanism in shorebirds involves surface tension-induced transport of prey in millimetric droplets: By repeatedly opening and closing its beak in a tweezering motion, the bird moves the drop from the tip of its beak to its mouth in a stepwise ratcheting fashion. We have analyzed the subtle physical mechanism responsible for drop transport and demonstrated experimentally that the beak geometry and the dynamics of tweezering may be tuned to optimize transport efficiency. We also highlight the critical dependence of the capillary ratchet on the beak's wetting properties, thus making clear the vulnerability of capillary feeders to surface pollutants.
Here we describe an ultra-low-cost origami-based approach for large-scale manufacturing of microscopes, specifically demonstrating brightfield, darkfield, and fluorescence microscopes. Merging principles of optical design with origami enables high-volume fabrication of microscopes from 2D media. Flexure mechanisms created via folding enable a flat compact design. Structural loops in folded paper provide kinematic constraints as a means for passive self-alignment. This light, rugged instrument can survive harsh field conditions while providing a diversity of imaging capabilities, thus serving wide-ranging applications for cost-effective, portable microscopes in science and education.
Mechanical power limitations emerge from the physical trade-off between force and velocity. Many biological systems incorporate power-enhancing mechanisms enabling extraordinary accelerations at small sizes. We establish how power enhancement emerges through the dynamic coupling of motors, springs, and latches and reveal how each displays its own force-velocity behavior. We mathematically demonstrate a tunable performance space for spring-actuated movement that is applicable to biological and synthetic systems. Incorporating nonideal spring behavior and parameterizing latch dynamics allows the identification of critical transitions in mass and trade-offs in spring scaling, both of which offer explanations for long-observed scaling patterns in biological systems. This analysis defines the cascading challenges of power enhancement, explores their emergent effects in biological and engineered systems, and charts a pathway for higher-level analysis and synthesis of power-amplified systems.
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