"DNA is the future of computing," Jian-Jun Shu tells PhysOrg. And why not? Silicon is slow by comparison, computes in a binary system, creates waste heat, and is not particularly easy on the environment. DNA-based computing can perform better than silicon in several respects, Shu says, and he and a few of his students at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore have set out to prove it.
The general idea: the human body performs computations all of the time, and does so far faster than even the fastest silicon-based supercomputer. Moreover, it does so in a parallel fashion, working with more breadth, speed, and agility than the ones and zeros of silicon computation. For massive parallel problems, artificial intelligence problems, and combinatorial problems, DNA-based computing could be far more efficient.
How does it work? Shu and company are just starting to scratch the surface of what DNA computing could do, he admits, but in the lab he and his students have manipulated strands of DNA to do all kinds of things. They have fused strands together, broken them apart, snipped them, and otherwise affected them to a certain goal or end like storing information in DNA molecules that can be later retrieved for computational purposes.
The operations right now are simple: addition or subtraction mainly, nothing as complex as what silicon computers can do on their worst days. The potential for that equation to be flipped is there, but first there are several obstacles that need to be overcome. For one, there is no real interface for DNA-based computing through which humans can interact with and display data. There also exists no equivalent to the CPU--something that can facilitate these complex operations without human interference.
But that will change, Shu says, with increases in technology and more time in the lab. Just don't expect to be computing with nucleotides anytime in the near term.
cool. i remember Dr. Michu Kaku talking about this. this is obviously the future of computers. i bet they will have this perfected in 20 years or so.
And why is this news again? Leonard Adleman was doing things like this back in 1994.
After 17 years I would have expected to hear a bit more than "just starting to scratch the surface" or "Just don’t expect to be computing with nucleotides anytime in the near term."
And compute what?: the rising deficit?
"right now are simple: addition or subtraction mainly, nothing as complex as what silicon computers can do on their worst days"
Ahh, that's all s silicon IC does. Every complex operation is is made of numerous add/sub commands (mult, integration etc). @Patrid, Yeah, I remember the "great potential" bck in the mid-90's as well, wonderful progress guys.
@KatieSaucey, Not really. Integrated circuits come in a vast array of varieties manipulating signals that are analog, digital, or mixed. Some do power management, amplifications, switching, ADCs, DACs, as well as the most well known use which is computing(flip flopping, gate switching, multiplexing, ect). Silicon ICs on a base level only hold 1's/0's, on/off, hi/low states via a transistor. By adjusting the transistor architecture you can then get the ICs to do simple mathematical operands then you can manipulate those operands into algorithms which perform specific tasks.
@OccultAssasin Your right of course, I simplified things too much. You went a layer deeper than my explanation. Got me thinking about applying this to replace optoelectronics, a wide range chemical compounds switch state when absorbing certain wavelengths, combined with a DNA processor, possibly could replace tradition routers etc.
@KatieSaucey Sounds interesting. Not sure I get the jist of it.Are you talking excitation states for compounds to store information? And if so how would a DNA processor use the excited state compounds? Also not sure anything could replace opto electronics seeing as how they can send and receive data/info at the fastest possible speeds i.e. light!
@occult, not the excitation state for atoms, the compound shape, (ie. cis-trans isomers), some of these transitions can happen in femtoseconds (1x10^-15s). Since packet data is just 1/0's the cis isomer could be a 1 etc. If the DNA processor could detect the shape changes (it is a physical change, so maybe it's doable), it could compute the packet destination and encode the outgoing signal (I have no idea how to accomplish this one). The bottleneck for opto electronics, is the electronic end, switching does not occur at the speed of light, but much slower (certainly not close to femtoseconds). Anyway just a pretty pie-in-the-sky thought. Look me up in 10-100yrs for more detail.
Hey, if was doable wouldn't networks switches be safe from EMP attack?
@Katie Yeah there is a bottleneck on the electronics in most systems but there are strides on picosecond detectors and femtosecond laser pulses. By the time the possibility of your proposed processor, there will be optical transistors with the ability of ultra fast switching at the femtosecond level. I just see the future going into light processing using photonics as the best fit due to it's speed and duality. And for a storage medium there would probably be a holographic storage for things like hard drives. Not to rain on your idea it was out of the box/greatly innovating.
i think you guys are missing the point, the future will combine hardware and biology to take advantage of each others strengths