Although, silicon-based microprocessors are no doubt getting advanced in terms of speeds and miniaturization, but still chip makers are expecting more from made of something new material to cope up with today’s computing speeds. To meet the growing demand of faster speeds and greater storage capacity, scientists are now furiously struggling to find their way through an innovative nanotechnology, i.e. DNA-based microprocessors chips. They have announced a new technology based on the use of DNA, to develop an electronic device, such as a computer. It has been expected that this technology is going to hit the peak of achievements in the field of computational biology.
The process involves the ‘switching’ of DNA structure with the help of copper salts and Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), a product normally found in shampoo and other common use items. Previously, there was a research showing that the purpose of changing the structure of a piece of DNA was to fold it up into ‘i-motif’, a four-stranded DNA secondary structure. But the recent research published in the journal Chemical Communications unleashed the fact that with the help of copper cations (positively-charged copper), the structure of DNA can be switched into a hair-pin structure, a second time. If the process is desired to be reversed, it can be done using EDTA.
The discovery of this remarkable nanotechnology has many applications, such as DNA can be used to make tiny machines like chips and other electronic devices, and most importantly for DNA-based computing, which will lead the manufacturing of computers with the utilization of DNA, rather than silicon. This technology will also be beneficial for sea animals, in detecting the presence of highly toxic copper cations in water, that are extremely hazardous for fish and other aquatic species.
The lead researcher from UEA’s school of pharmacy, Dr. Zoe Waller said, “Our research shows how the structure of our genetic material – DNA – can be changed and used in a way we didn’t realize. A single switch was possible before, but we show for the first time how the structure can be switched twice. A potential application of this finding could be to create logic gates for DNA based computing. Logic gates are an elementary building block of digital circuits, used in computers and other electronic equipment. They are traditionally made using diodes or transistors which act as electronic switches. This research expands how DNA could be used as a switching mechanism for a logic gate in DNA-based computing or in Nano-technology”.
Hence these DNA computers are expected to store trillions of times more data than our personal computers. The next decade is going to be based upon Nano-computers made up of genetic materials, instead of the existing silicon-based computers.