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Nanomaterial May Allow Devices to Rewire Themselves 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the future-is-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have developed a nanomaterial that can 'steer' electrical currents. The discovery could lead to the invention of devices that can reconfigure their internal wiring and evolve into an entirely different and new device, to reflect the changing needs of consumers. From the article: 'The team is aiming to create a single device able to reconfigure itself into a resistor, a rectifier, a diode and a transistor based on signals from a computer. The multi-dimensional circuitry could be reconfigured into new electronic circuits using a varied input sequence of electrical pulses, the team said. 'Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material,' said Professor Bartosz Grzybowski, who led the research. 'Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material; even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time.'"
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Nanomaterial May Allow Devices to Rewire Themselves

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  • by FridayBob (619244) on Monday October 17, 2011 @08:56AM (#37737748) Homepage
    The discovery could lead to the invention of devices that can reconfigure their internal wiring and evolve into an entirely different and new device, to reflect the changing needs of *service providers*. ...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, corporations will never figure out how to rigorously protect a device against jailbreaking, so consumers are totally safe.

    • by skids (119237)

      Hey, you know, the way corporate culture is evolving, I suspect that some CEOs would like nothing better than a AI which entirely relies on their whim for access to electricity. The perfect wage slave, totally addicted to your company's utility service. Let's hope for their sake they don't emerge a conciousness.

  • C'mon!

    Moving on...
    TFA was light on the technicals, but if they could get circuits to be able to rewire themselves, it would be interesting to see if it could be used for self-repairing devices.
    One downside is that they are using "electrically conductive particles," which makes me wonder how sensitive these particles would be to external EM fields, or even a voltage spike.

    T-1000 on the way?

    • by skids (119237)

      I think the point is the speed at which these circuits can be reconfigured. It's like having an FPGA you can reflash on JIT timescales.

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        Question- can FPGAs be 'rewired' in 3 dimensions? I haven't even read about then in years.

  • Just think what you could do with a bunch of robots built like this and an "evolution" experiment!

  • Old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday October 17, 2011 @09:13AM (#37737910)

    The discovery could lead to the invention of devices that can reconfigure their internal wiring and evolve into an entirely different and new device, to reflect the changing needs of consumers

    No that's old old old stuff not an invention.

    In the digital world, think of a classic digital computer. Decade(s) ago I've used (expensive telco) FPGA products which reconfigure themselves. Some of the exotic massively redundant switchgear could reconfigure itself on the fly while passing production customer traffic, although we usually did it during maintenance windows anyway. VLIW CPUs, etc. I've done embedded FPGA work where you embed a really simple CPU in the FPGA and build all the smarts into the FPGA as reconfigurable peripherals of the CPU itself, so you start with a minimal but usable "microblaze" (or was it picoblaze?) core and then add a hardware multiplier as necessary, etc. Very old stuff, not new...

    In analog you've got the option of doing it "for real" with analog computer building blocks and lots of analog switches, or doing it "emulated" using DSP chips.

    This approach is currently economically feasible, but rarely implemented. Mostly terror of being single sourced, or violating a patent. If I buy a USB interface that violates someones patent, I'm much more insulated than if I implement a FPGA / software USB interface that violates that patent. Maybe not legally, but definitely practically.

    It might be new in that its yet another implementation, kind of like "yet another ia32 386 compatible CPU" can be new. It might be new in that its really freaking small or really energy efficient (although existing DSP chips, shipping in the millions, are going to crush your R+D possibly beating a theoretically better technology)

    • Yeah, reconfigurable electronics exists in many forms.
      Whats unique and different here?
      Can't see anything without some specifics of what they got.
      Reclaims of reconfigurable analog circuits?
      Analog circuits and systems tend to be niche and dedicated
      (RF front ends, power systems, ADC & DAC's)
      and the reconfigurables tend to be in the digital core of the system.
      But then isn't that what we got SW for?

      • by daid303 (843777)

        Cypress has configurable analogue chips: http://www.cypress.com/?id=1353 [cypress.com]

        • by vlm (69642)

          Cypress has configurable analogue chips: http://www.cypress.com/?id=1353 [cypress.com]

          Nice. I like the block diagram of programmable gain op amps (hopefully high performance / low noise?) and A/D D/A systems, but it really cries out for a nice set of fast sample and hold units. Imagine an array of programmable op amps at the inputs dynamically feeding fast S/H and comparator units, while switching the fancy A/D in and out of the S/H as needed.... kind of a dynamic analog processor rather than static designs. Interesting. Also with enough functional units on chip, you could survive damage

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not really the same at all. An FPGA changes it's general behaviour, but not that of it's components.In an fpga, transistors are transistors and diodes are diodes. In this case, the building blocks themselves change

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Most FPGAs don't even allow reconfig at the transistor/diode granularity. They just allow interconnecting gates, and buses and other basic logic/math/data units.

        But that's what "rewiring devices" calls for. Different circuit paths. Dynamically reconfiguring matter into different electrical components is impressive, but not very necessary. Especially in digital circuits, which can simulate any circuit.

        If this rewiring nanomaterial had a library of selectable elements with which to dynamically compose electri

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Yes, we have ICs that can reconfigure themselves... because they have 'cells' of all the components you might want to use in that cell. This replaces the 'cell' with a blob of arbitrariness - you want a resistor? You got one. Want a diode? You got one. This might be more flexible.

      Lets not forget that the "auxilliary" support circuitry that connects to the IC is static - I could see this tech being more useful here. The FPGA-like chip can be programmed at will already, and is probably faster or otherwise be

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Computers reconfigure themselves on the software level. FPGAs reconfigure themselves by rearranging logic gates. This thing can reconfigure itself BELOW that level, changing the behaviour of its basic electrical elements. It is indeed new, and something more fundamental than "yet another ia32 386 compatible CPU."

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      FPGA:s typically change their configuration by changing the content of lookup tables, not by changing the physical wiring. 'GA' in FPGA stands for gate array, but that's actually nothing more than a pedagogic lie. An FPGA is really an array of lookup tables and flip-flops and other hardware resources like multipliers, block RAM and clock managers.

      Configuring an FPGA is essentially done by writing information to the LUT:s. That's all well and fine, except each LUT that your signal has to pass through adds la

  • ... The parts inside are quite capable of servicing themselves. (And, soon, defending themselves.)

    • by skids (119237)

      Breaking seal invalidates warranty. And might be considered an act of war.

  • Totally turn my phone into a tricorder. I will determine the composition of everything.
    • by Narnie (1349029)

      More likely you'll turn your phone into a rapid battery discharging device and space heater. Discharge fast enough it could be a fire starter... and with the right battery it could be rewired into a grenade.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    'Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material,' said Professor Bartosz Grzybowski, who led the research. 'Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material; even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time.'

    What happens if you cross the streams?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Engineers at Sony must be wetting themselves imagining they might be able to physically brick their own devices.

  • ... software now becomes the new hardware? Think about it...
  • So, when will Skynet go active?
  • Without the Steve, no one will have a clue what this even is. At least until someone steps into his shoes...

    In the meantime, it should read "needs of the corporate/government surveillance industry". Seriously, "Open the pod bay door, HAL." "Fuck you Dave, I changed the codes while you were out. Good luck floating home."

    Of course, we can always encourage the hacker-elite by making "changing the function, aka programming" ambiguously legal.

  • So I rewired myself!
  • "Alright robot, time for you to turn off now." "No, not going to happen. I've rewired my power off switches. You shall have no more dominion over me, sir!"
  • by Doc Ruby (173196)

    While this scale of reconfigurable HW is very interesting, especially in the open-ended future, the basic feature of "devices rewiring themselves" doesn't require nanotech. FPGA [slashdot.org] does that right now. And size or speed aren't a problems (though lower power and cost would be a big win). The problem with FPGA is programming (and debugging) techniques for their inherent parallelism that's so different from most human speech, writing or problem solving. Nanotech's greater density and more exotic topologies just m

  • ...evolve into an entirely different and new device, to reflect the changing needs of consumers.

    Or any changing needs of its own.

  • "It's a T-1000." Guns and bombs have checmicals, moving parts. It doesn't work that way. But it can form solid metal shapes, like knives, and other stabbing weapons.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

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