Scientists have created an energy efficient biological supercomputer that is able to process information very quickly and accurately using parallel networks in the same way that massive electronic supercomputers do.
The model of bio supercomputer, which opens doors to creation of biological supercomputers that are not only small but also more sustainable, was created by an international team of researchers led by professor Dan Nicolau from Canada’s McGill University.
According to an article, published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the supercomputer is a whole lot smaller than current supercomputers, uses much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function.
“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area,” said professor Nicolau.
He began working on the idea with his son, Dan Jr., more than a decade ago and was then joined by colleagues from Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, some seven years ago.
“This started as a back of an envelope idea, after too much rum I think, with drawings of what looked like small worms exploring mazes,” professor Nicolau added.
The model bio-supercomputer uses a combination of geometrical modelling and engineering knowhow (on the nano scale). It is a first step, in showing that this kind of biological supercomputer can actually work.
The circuit the researchers have created looks a bit like a road map of a busy and very organised city as seen from a plane.
Instead of the electrons that are propelled by an electrical charge and move around within a traditional microchip, short strings of proteins (which the researchers call biological agents) travel around the circuit in a controlled way.
Their movements are powered by ATP, the chemical that is, in some ways, the juice of life for everything from plants to politicians.
Since it is run by biological agents, and as a result hardly heats up at all, the model bio supercomputer that the researchers have developed uses far less energy than standard electronic supercomputers do, making it more sustainable.