Biological Supercomputer Can Solve Complex Problems Using Less Energy


Scientists created an ATP-powered model of a biological supercomputer capable of solving complex problems with less energy. Dubbed "molecular unit of currency," adenosine triphosphate or ATP is a biochemical that enables internal energy transfers among cells.

Unlike other supercomputer models that use synthetic semiconducting circuitry on top of a microchip, the new biological supercomputer uses tiny ATP-powered protein strings.

The new supercomputer doesn't overheat because it is powered by biological agents; therefore, it uses less energy. At a smaller, more compact size, the new system imitates the basic mathematical functions of most supercomputers. Unlike the old massive supercomputers, the new one is about the size of a book.

McGill University's computer scientist Dan Nicolau, Sr. worked on the idea with his son, Dan Jr., more than 10 years ago. Eventually, he was joined by colleagues from the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Norway and Canada about 7 years ago.

The circuit looked like an aerial view of a very organized city with various automobiles powered by different motors. These automobiles consume fuel to snake through the channels created especially for them. This 'circuit city' is about 1.5 centimeter square (0.23 square inch) with etched channels.

When conventional, massive supercomputers heat up, they need to be cooled. In order to function, some even require a dedicated power plant.

The finished product which was created by the father-son duo and colleagues combined engineering and geometrical modeling. The study is the first step in showing that a biological supercomputer is feasible.

Nicolau said that now that there is a new model in place, other groups will follow up and try other biological agents to push it further. The new model is far from perfect but the researchers believe it has vast potentials.

"One option for dealing with larger and more complex problems may be to combine our device with a conventional computer to form a hybrid device," added Nicolau who said that the team is currently working on more ways to push their initial study further.

The new biological supercomputer study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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