Computers of the Future : DNA Computing

3 mins read

DNA could one day be integrated into a computer chip. In fact, DNA molecules have already been used to solve complex mathematical problems. The widespread use of these computers would revolutionize storage and computing.

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Computer chip makers are frantically racing to build the next microprocessor that will shatter speed records, but sooner or later this competition will hit a wall. Silicon microprocessors will finally reach the limits of speed and miniaturization. Chipmakers need a new material to produce faster computing speeds.

The new material scientists need to create the next generation of microprocessors is actually quite familiar to us. After all, there are millions of natural supercomputers inside living organisms, including our bodies. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules, the material from which our genes are made, have the potential to compute much faster than the world’s most powerful man-made computers.

What is a DNA Computer?

A DNA computer is the name given to a new generation of computers developed for a form of computation using molecular biology instead of the silicon-based computers currently in use. You won’t find these computers in your electronics store just yet. After all, this technology is extremely new and still under development.

In 1994, Leonard Adleman came up with the idea of using DNA to solve complex mathematical problems. Adleman, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, concluded that DNA had computational potential after reading the 1953 book “Molecular Biology of the Gene” by James Watson. In fact, DNA stores permanent information about your genes. It is therefore similar to the hard disk of a computer.

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As the topic gained traction, researchers developed logic gates made of DNA. Logic gates convert the binary code in a computer into a series of signals that the computer uses to perform operations. These logic gates were the first step in creating a new generation of computers. Instead of using electrical signals to perform logical operations, these DNA logic gates rely on DNA code. They recognize pieces of genetic material as input. They then combine these pieces and create a single output. For example, a genetic gate called the “And gate” chemically connects two DNA inputs.

Silicon microprocessors have been the heart of the computing world for more than 40 years. Manufacturers have built more and more electronic devices into their microprocessors. But Moore’s Law reminds us that there is a limit. DNA computers have the potential to take computing to new levels, picking up where Moore’s Law left off. There are several advantages to using DNA instead of silicon.



Ali Esen

Istanbul University, Department of Mathematics. Interested in science and technology.

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