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Fun with Fluids

Ink-jet printers, flat-panel displays and biochips all require the precise placement of microscopic amounts of fluids, but getting fluids to go where you want takes a lot more than just asking nicely. Researchers at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, have come up with a promising approach. Their “electrocapillary” system, which uses no moving parts, shuttles fluid quickly through tubes as narrow as 350 micrometers wide-roughly three times the width of a human hair.

The tubes are actually filled with two fluids, which repel each other: one fluid is electrically conductive while the other is insulating. The wall of the tube also repels the fluids, but it’s lined with electrodes. When the electrodes are charged, the walls exert less force on the conducting fluid, which is squeezed up the tube by the greater force exerted by the insulating fluid. The fluid moves at several centimeters per second, which is about a hundred times faster than the speeds other electrical techniques deliver. A Philips group led by Menno Prins has demonstrated a network of thousands of such electrocapillaries, which they say could have applications in optical switching.

Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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