Boffins from North Carolina State University have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a squishy memory device which works well if you get it wet.
They think that it could open the door to a new generation of biocompatible electronic devices.
Dr. Michael Dickey said that he had created a memory device which is a bit like jelly, although he declined to say which flavour.
The problem with electronics is that they are made of rigid, brittle materials and they don’t work very well if you pour coffee or beer in them.
However a squishy memory is soft and pliable, and functions extremely well in wet environments which makes it similar to the brain.
Sadly so far, the jelly chips cannot hold significant amounts of memory, but they work well in environments that would be hostile to traditional electronics, particularly with a bit of custard.
The jelly is not the sort of thing you could eat if you come back late from the pub starving and all you have to eat is your computer. The jelly is made of a liquid alloy of gallium and indium metals set into water-based gels, although you do get wafers with it.
It also has the advantage that it can interface better with biological systems such as cells, enzymes or tissue which means you could use them as biological sensors or for medical monitoring.
Squishy memory components have two states. One that conducts electricity and the other which would not touch it with a barge pole.
These two states can be used to represent the 1s and 0s used in binary language. Rather than electrons to create these 1s and 0s in computer chips, the jelly memory device uses ions to sort this out.
When an alloy electrode is exposed to a positive charge it creates an oxidized skin that makes it resistive to electricity that is designated 0. When the electrode is exposed to a negative charge, the oxidized skin disappears, and it becomes conducive to electricity and it becomes the 1.
Michael Dickey has written a paper with the somewhat disappointing title “Towards All-Soft Matter Circuits: Prototypes of Quasi-Liquid Devices with Memristor Characteristics.” We would have thought it would have been better called “My Jelly Baby”, by the Doctor – probably a bit more marketable.