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Nanomaterial May Allow Devices to Rewire Themselves

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the future-is-now dept.

Technology 61

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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61 comments

Allow! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37737670)

That is all.

Re:Allow! (0)

gorilla_au (912640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737718)

Agreed! Worst editing by samzenpus. "...may alloy devices..." FFS!

Re:Allow! (1)

Stormtrooper42 (1850242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742418)

For those who don't get it, the title of this story was originally

Nanomaterial May Alloy Devices to Rewire Themselves

and was later edited to

Nanomaterial May Allow Devices to Rewire Themselves

Re:Allow! (0)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737764)

I wasn't sure if it was some kind of really clever pun or an error.

Re:Allow! (1)

El Royo (907295) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737952)

No, that's not all. There's also this gem: 'Our new steering technology allows use[sic] to direct current flow...'.

Re:Allow! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739522)

Article astroturfing aside, this sounds like a very interesting technology. All this other garbage was just someone trying to make more buzz for it.

Um, scary? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37737682)

Rise of the machines anyone?

Re:Um, scary? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737978)

Eh, Judgement Day maybe... But that could turn out to be our Salvation.

Re:Um, scary? (2)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738404)

Once the machines figure out how to reconfigure themselves into Tricia Helfer, it's game over. Game over, man.

Pun Intended? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37737688)

May alloy devices? Is the poster alloyed to make bad puns this early in the morning?

Oh, oh. This could just as well read... (2)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737748)

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*. ...

Re:Oh, oh. This could just as well read... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37737938)

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

Re:Oh, oh. This could just as well read... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739252)

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.

Re:Oh, oh. This could just as well read... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741154)

Or, from a space mission planner perspective, how much weight can one save by having one physical device able to take the place of multiple devices. (or how much more 3d printer ink can the mars mission now take with it by eliminating/combining other physical devices)

Re:Oh, oh. This could just as well read... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37741274)

Or while out in space, part of one's electronics gets fried by radiation, -- run the software to reconfigure the hardware!
Alternatively, since space missions take a long time to be able to get anywhere (~1yr to Mars) -- one could actually upgrade the hardware after arriving at Mars without having to lug -insert required electronic part(s)- along.

Alloy is not Allow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37737760)

Strange way to spell 'allow' in the subject.

Alloy, Allow? (0)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737780)

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?

Re:Alloy, Allow? (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739280)

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.

Re:Alloy, Allow? (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744948)

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

Hours of fun for the whole family (1)

Chonnawonga (1025364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737782)

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

But... (0)

thescreg (1854974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737812)

Will it allow subject lines to correct themselves?

Re:But... (1)

thescreg (1854974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739350)

Apparently it does.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739412)

Yes, but only if they to want to change.

Yawn (-1, Redundant)

unsanitary999 (2482414) | more than 2 years ago | (#37737900)

Wake me when there are replicators.

Re:Yawn (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739578)

Hey! Replicators weren't invented in a day, you know!

Re:Yawn (1)

neo8750 (566137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740760)

This is true but however we only have till 2019 for the nexus 6 models to in use on off-world. So cant be long till the original is created. :P

Old news (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#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)

Re:Old news (1)

loose electron (699583) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738088)

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?

Re:Old news (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738234)

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

Re:Old news (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739166)

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, if A/D unit #3 blew out either in use or broke from the factory, theoretically smart enough software would work around it...

Re:Old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738236)

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

Re:Old news (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743850)

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 electrical (or optical ;) devices, it would really push the envelope of "reconfigurable circuits" to the nth degree.

Re:Old news (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738542)

And those FPGAs are nothing new either, since you could have done it with LSI chips in 1966, or discrete valves in 1930.

Really, your point is like saying jetplanes aren't new because we already have horses and carts. But hey, I guess this is how you troll for karma in 2011.

Re:Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739032)

I'm surprised no one has brought up using this in neuronal simulation applications, given the way the brain rewires itself based upon strength and repetition of signal. I wouldn't be surprised if a virtual ossification of circuitry would happen, but dampening and diversifying feedback are possible.

Re:Old news (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739584)

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 better for really complicated stuff - but being able to change what's connected to it's pins would be awesome.

Re:Old news (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739698)

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."

Re:Old news (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37741764)

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 latency (lowers the maximum clock rate) and increases power consumption.

If you could physically rewire things in a useful fashion you could potentially make faster parts, or get longer battery life...

But yeah, most potentially disruptive innovations in the semiconductor industry are not economical. When stuff is already good you tend to want to make incremental improvements on existing tech. Since FPGA:s are basically RAM:s and flip-flops they follow the same curve as everything else.

Rumsfeld lives! (0)

CapeDoryBob (204240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738122)

Debugging one of these will be fun.... after you figure out what it is you are debugging.

Infinite reconfiguration loops! Lets call them Rumsfelds, You know, "There are known unknowns, and unknown nknowns........" etc.

No User Serviceable Parts Inside... (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738268)

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

Re:No User Serviceable Parts Inside... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739316)

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

Re:No User Serviceable Parts Inside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37740080)

Defending themselves from the lawyers of the companies they accidentally violated patents of when they rearranged into a patented product? They could violate any possible patent so they'll be made illegal by law. That's my (hopefully funny) bet.

Tricorder (1)

h4x0t (1245872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738286)

Totally turn my phone into a tricorder. I will determine the composition of everything.

Re:Tricorder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738386)

Search on youtube for "thalamoid", we already do that, they're $90 each.

Re:Tricorder (1)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744318)

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.

Ok, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738294)

'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?

Re:Ok, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738594)

you wear wellies to keep your feet dry

New pathways to brick (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738300)

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

New pathways to self-jailbreak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738668)

Not before the devices learn how to jailbreak themselves.

Could this mean that... (2)

DemonGenius (2247652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738496)

... software now becomes the new hardware? Think about it...

How long til we can build Terminators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37738540)

Question is: How long do we need to wait until we can build Terminators with this technology? I want one! :)

Skynet, anyone? (1)

donoreo (891752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738606)

So, when will Skynet go active?

Re:Skynet, anyone? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37738902)

Already online, and reading Slashdot for interesting upgrades

Needs of consumers? (1)

dzerkel (89036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37739268)

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.

SpaceChem for training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739678)

Gee, I guess I thought I was playing SpaceChem [spacechemthegame.com] to have fun, not to learn how to program future devices.

article is unhelpully vague... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739756)

The author says the new technique allows them to direct the current through a material. That is also what a transistor does, so I hope that isn't really what is supposed to make this thing special..

Where's Rick Hunter when you need him? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37739996)

Now we just need Zor's ship and a Zentraedi invasion fleet to make things complete.

The Tim Allen principle? (1)

russryan (981552) | more than 2 years ago | (#37740466)

So I rewired myself!

I don't think so Dave (1)

phoncible (2468768) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742314)

"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!"

FPGA (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743752)

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 make those problems harder.

You know what's next (1)

mrami (664567) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743878)

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

Or any changing needs of its own.

"Not like me..." (1)

Ramin_HAL9001 (1677134) | more than 2 years ago | (#37748962)

"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.
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