This approach could be more energy effective than standard silicon transistors, in that the resulting transistors would be nonvolatile -- they don't need to be constantly refreshed with a power source to maintain their state, Parkin said. A charge can be set by applying the voltage once.
These materials may not switch their states as quickly as silicon transistors, though their relatively low switching speed may not be a factor, given their greater flexibility, Parkin said. In theory such transistors could mimic how the human brain operates in that "liquids and currents of ions [are used] to change materials," Parkin said. "We know brains can carry out computing operations a million times more efficiently than silicon-based computers," Parkin said.
To work, such circuitry would take advantage of microfluidics, the emerging practice of engineering around how to tightly control small amounts of liquids in a system. "We would direct fluids to particular surfaces or three-dimensional structures of oxides and then change their properties by applying gate voltages," Parkin said. Entire virtual circuits could be built and once their work is finished, they could be torn down by simply passing liquid though other channels.