Are we ready for a DNA computer?

The double helix (in colour) represents DNA while the 0s and 1s stand for digital information.

Scientists at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have announced that they have created a DNA based computer. That is a very important development as DNA-based computers could change computing (the way we use our computers) forever. Now, let’s understand what this is all about.

The brain in your computer

This is what a regular microchip looks like

At the heart of your computer is something called a micro-processor or microchip. It is made up of a material called silicon and built into this tiny device is intelligence for making calculations and running programmes on the computer.  moore2

In 1965, an American named Gordon Moore (who founded a company called Intel which makes such microprocessors) predicted that such chips would double in power every two years. His prediction has come true, but many believe that Moore’s law will soon come to an end because chip makers are running out of space to make microchips more and more powerful.




What’s DNA?

That is where DNA based computing can help. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid and it is something present in all our bodies. Think of DNA as the master plan based on which our body grows and develops. Are you short/tall/brown-eyed/black-eyed? Blame it on the DNA. DNA is built from substances called proteins which can be combined in various ways to help the body do stuff such as growing hair and fighting off infections. Plus DNA can grow and create more of itself based on the body’s needs.

How will DNA-based computing work?

The new DNA computers are building DNA molecules (tiny particles) into chips, and these have the effect of making the chips far, far more powerful. The DNA inside the chip is used by the computer to store information and perform complex calculations. DNA computers can perform calculations much faster, and such computers will also be a lot smaller. For example, complex math problems, which will take normal computers years to solve, can be cracked by DNA machines in hours!

And the good news, DNA chips that use biological material (things taken from living things) will be far more environment friendly than silicon chips!