Mimicking the DNA’s ability to replicate, British researchers are working on the development of computers that can self-replicate and develop as they perform calculations. Boasting compact size, these biocomputers would have a calculating speed greater than even proposed quantum computers.
Moore’s Law, and with it microelectronics, is close to its limits. For decades, the number of transistors on a silicon chip has constantly been increased, allowing computers to be faster and more efficient.
Increasing the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits can only be achieved by minimizing the size of the elementary components. This miniaturization is now of a nanometric order that it will be, at some point in the future, technically and financially impossible to go any further.
DNA Inspires Superfast Biocomputers
To overcome these limits, experts at the University of Manchester imagined a way to leverage DNA’s properties to design self-replicating, exponentially faster computers.
In the study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers said that DNA has many potential computing advantages, such as speed, energy efficiency and data processing and storage. With genes that have remained virtually unchanged over billions of years, DNA is very stable, it self-replicates and can also be copied reliably.
The non-deterministic Universal Turing Machine that the team proposes trades space for time. If a computer enters a maze and encounters a fork, it would have no choice but to explore all the paths one by one, at random.
The molecular UTM, however, duplicates itself just like a DNA and each copy would go down a different path. By simultaneously exploring all the possible paths, a DNA-based UTM would get out of the maze at a fraction of the time a conventional computer would.
“Our computer’s ability to grow as it computes makes it faster than any other form of computer,” said Ross D. King, co-author of the paper, “and enables the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible.”
While we hold in one hand a smartphone that’s much more powerful than the first computers, quantum computers for the public are not for tomorrow. This method would allow overcoming the limitations imposed by physical laws. With the possibility to use more processors than all the electronic computers in the world combined in a single computer, desktop DNA-based computers that outperform the fastest current supercomputer are now feasible.