Though we're guessing ink-jet cartridges are foremost on its mind, HP
's new flexible circuits could make adaptable microchips possible at the consumer level, opening up whole new worlds of computer use and weird new hacker exploitations. Just like everything else new and hip these days, the new chips involve a few "nano" buzzwords, but instead of going for a full-on molecular computer like many current researchers are doing, HP is taking a bit of a hybrid approach. The new HP design uses a traditional silicon-based chip, with a mesh of nanowire switches on top. The nanowires provide flexibility to the chip, allowing it to adapt to tasks or be upgraded to a new wireless spec, but the silicon still does all the heavy lifting. Plus, the molecular switches don't draw any power except when switching from one state to another, so overall power consumption is reduced. The design is pretty much finished, so right now the HP researchers are building the first prototype, and should be finished by the end of the year. As far off as that may seem -- and there's no telling how long it will take to commercialize this once the prototype is finished -- it sounds like these guys are well ahead of other molecular computing projects, and should provide a nice stopgap for expanding computer performance while we wait for full-on molecular processors to start bumping our FPS frame rates.