A new version of a biomolecular computer developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - composed entirely of DNA molecules and enzymes - outdoes even the fastest of its kind, performing as many as a billion different programs simultaneously.
Previous biomolecular computers, such as the one built by a joint team from the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science three years ago, were limited to just 765 simultaneous programs.
Current computers consist of metal, plastic, wires and transistors. The manner in which they process information is called linear because they conduct one computation at a time. In the latest generation of computers, biological molecules replace all the components. One advantage of these biomolecular computers over linear computers is their ability to simultaneously carry out an enormous number of complex operations.
This new biological computer is also autonomous; it processes calculations from beginning to end without any human assistance. Other biomolecular computers require humans to analyze and decipher results and perform intermediate tasks at different points in the process before the computer can complete the operation.
'A final innovation is the incorporation of a gold-coated chip, which allows simple, real-time readout of the results,' said lead researcher Professor Ehud Keinan of the Technion Faculty of Chemistry. He explained that results produced by current biomolecular computers can only be
analyzed by using elaborate techniques that include separating and sorting molecules according to size and the use of radioactive materials.
The development of the Technion's biomolecular computer is reported in the March 2005 Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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