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Researchers to Develop 'Self-Replicating' DNA Computer That Grows as it Works

Mar 20, 2017 05:55 AM EDT
DNA Strands From A Double Helix Model
LONDON - APRIL 23: Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) strands from a double helix model on display at the Science Museum April 23, 2003 in London.
(Photo : Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Scientists are planning to create a new type of computer that not only self-replicates, but is also made of very surprising materials: silicon chips with processors from DNA molecules. The new computer is said to be faster than quantum computers.

According to a news release from the University of Manchester, the new device, called nondeterministic universal Turing machine (NUTM), poses a possible "solution" to the problem of quantum computing. Because it's made from DNA molecules, it can replicate copies of itself to execute algorithms at once.

The Manchester team said that DNA is a good medium for storing and processing information, as it has been doing this particular task for living things since time immemorial. The researchers noted that unlike currently available computers that works along specific paths, the new computer can explore a plethora of paths or solutions to a problem at the same time because of its ability to self-replicate.

Read Also: Woah! Computer Data, Including Movie, Successfuly Stored on DNA

"Our computer's ability to grow as it computes makes it faster than any other form of computer, and enables the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible," said Ross King, one of the team members.

King added that this nature of DNA will help computers become faster. Also, using DNA means being able to create chips that are smaller than the smallest silicon chips.

The NUTM will use DNA molecules to represent information not through 1s and 0s, but through the four genetic alphabet characters (A, G, C and T). The researchers said they can configure regular computers into NUTMs using Thue, a new programming language developed in the early 2000s. This will alow strings of alphabet symbols be "rewritten" into other symbols. 

According to Science Alert, mankind is currently reaching its limit as to just how many silicon chips can be fitted in a single device. Quantum computers hope to answer this problem by solving algorithms using qubits or bits that take up 0s and 1s at the same time. However, this poses quite a difficult problem, especially when it comes to scientific backing. 

Interestingly, the idea of a DNA-based computer is not entirely foreign. It has been proposed early as the 1990s, but this is the only time a feasible idea has been reached.

Read Also: Chinese Biotech Company Wants to Mine Data to Fight Deadly Diseases -- How Does it Work? 

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