Pneumatic logic: Air-powered computers for controlling robots and more

By William H. Grover |

From soft robots and train brakes, to breast pumps and medical ventilators, air-powered systems perform many important functions.  Many of these air-powered systems are controlled by electronic hardware (computers, solenoid valves, sensors, etc.), and this hardware can add considerable cost, size, and complexity to the system and limit its usability in some settings.  In this talk, I’ll show how it’s possible to significantly reduce (or even eliminate) the electronic hardware required to control air-powered systems by using air-powered logic "circuits.”  Originally developed to control microfluidic “lab-on-a-chip” devices, these pneumatic logic circuits use microfluidic valves instead of transistors, air pressure instead of voltage, and air flow instead of current.  By combining multiple valves into pneumatic circuits, we can make Boolean logic gates (AND, OR, NOT, XOR, etc.), oscillators, clocks, counters, memory, and even simple programmable computers that all run on air.  We’ve shown that these pneumatic logic circuits can control (and detect problems in) soft robots, biomedical devices, and many other air-powered systems, all while being cheaper, smaller, more efficient, and safer than their electronic counterparts.

Let us help you with your search