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DNA-Based Circuits with an Electric Feel

Oct 29, 2014 02:49 PM EDT

The first ever DNA-based electrical circuit may soon be more than just an intangible idea, as new breakthrough research in DNA molecules has the potential to make this dream a reality.

In research published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, an international group of researchers hailing from Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Spain and the United States has demonstrated that electric current can be transmitted through long DNA molecules.

In the computer industry, it seems that smaller is better. A computer with the memory of the average laptop today was the size of a tennis court in the 1970s. And yet while scientists made great strides in reducing of the size of individual computer components through microelectronics, they've struggled for decades in reducing the distance between transistors, the main guts of our computers. This has limited designers from creating processors much smaller than modern technology.

That's where DNA comes in, for it's the only known molecule that can overcome this obstacle because of its ability to self-assemble into various structures. Though, applying this to the computer industry is easier said than done, and until now researchers hadn't been able to measure reliably or quantitatively the flow of electrical current through DNA molecules.

In this latest work, the researchers were able to measure and reproduce currents ranging from tens of picoamperes (pA) to more than 100 pA over distances ranging from tens of nanometers (nm) to more than 100 nm, according to IEEE Spectrum.

"This research paves the way for implementing DNA-based programmable circuits for molecular electronics, which could lead to a new generation of computer circuits that can be more sophisticated, cheaper and simpler to make," Danny Porath, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said in a press release.

With this breakthrough, DNA-based electrical circuits are nearly a thing of the present, and DNA molecules may herald in a new age of microelectronics.

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