Things seem to be evolving with the speed of light when it comes to the complex field of biotechnology, with ideas that were once unfathomable quickly turning to reality at the hands of scientists.
In yet another record-breaking innovation, a team of researchers from the McGill University managed to design a biological supercomputer, which uses much less energy than the regular one, thus eliminating the problem of overheating.
For this purpose, computer expert Dan Nicolau and his son Dan Jr. used ATP or adenosine triphosphate, which is a chemical present in our bodies, that enables the transfer of internal energy at a cellular level. It is also known as the molecular unit of currency, because of its capacity to transfer energy throughout cells.
The two scientists wanted to make a change from the regular way of building a computer and decided against using a microchip beneath the synthetic semiconductive circuitry.
Instead, they used ATP-powered protein strings to design a biological supercomputer that can offer a high-performance rate, but with a reduced energy use.
Since it is powered by these biological agents, the supercomputer utilizes less energy than a normal one would, which means overheating is no longer an issue.
Even though its size is not impressive (it’s about as big as a book), it can perform all the main mathematical functions that a regular supercomputer does.
According to researchers, the designed circuit is similar to the aerial view of a well-planned city. It has a diameter of around 0.23 square inches, and it looks as if it has small vehicles moving around specially integrated channels.
These so-called “automobiles” function because of the adenosine triphosphate, which allows them to progress through the specially engraved channels.
One of the main differences between a traditional supercomputer and the one designed by the two computer scientists is that the regular one needs a dedicated power plant in order to function properly, while the latter does not need that much energy.
Even though it’s shown some incredible potential so far, the biological supercomputer is only a prototype, which means there’s still room for improvement. Nevertheless, the developers are optimistic that they can advance their design even further in the near future.
Currently, they are thinking of linking it to a regular computer in order to create a hybrid device.
Dan Nicolau is Chair of the Department of Bioengineering and an Endowed Professor of Engineering. He Holds a Ph.D. from the Polytechnical University of Bucharest and an M.S. from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania.
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