Electrical circuits based on DNA could soon become a reality. Computer circuits could be designed based on the genetic structure of all living beings, providing processors significantly faster than current technology.
Computers have become smaller over the last sixty years, as well as more powerful. Transistors are critical to the operation of the machines, but a minimum distance between the components is required to prevent interference between the devices. This has limited designers from creating processors much smaller than modern technology.
Molecular electronics could get around this challenge, if researchers could find a way to develop molecules that self-assemble into complex circuits. So far, that has not been achieved by any of the groups working on the task. The only molecules that self-organize in complex forms in nature are DNA, making these structures obvious choices for researchers looking to develop electrical processors. However, no large DNA molecules have been successfully shown to carry an electrical signal in a manner which could prove useful in a processor.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers collaborated with other scientists from around the world to develop four strands of DNA capable of carrying such a charge.
"This research paves the way for implementing DNA-based programmable circuits for molecular electronics, which could lead to a new generation of computer circuits that can be more sophisticated, cheaper and simpler to make," Danny Porath of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said.
Researchers believe this could be the greatest breakthrough in DNA-based electrical circuits in the last ten years.
The molecules were designed by a team headed by Alexander Kotlyar of Tel Aviv University. Gideon Livshits, a doctoral student under Porath, performed measurements of the DNA circuits. Additional input was provided by investigators in the United States, Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, and Spain.
This research could bring DNA back to the forefront of research in materials science. If transistors made of genetic code are formed into a processor, it could herald a new age of microelectronics. By bringing the microscopic transistors close together, additional circuits could fit on a chip, allowing parallel processing, increasing system speed.
In 2013, a group of researchers used DNA to form a transistor constructed from graphene, which could itself yield a separate revolution in computer technology. The genetic code is also utilized to create DNA field-effect transistor (DNAFET). These biosensors are used to detect genetic disorders, including heredity diseases. They can also be utilized for genetic sequencing.
Development of the breakthrough molecular circuit was detailed in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.