Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Science

First Biological Supercomputer unveiled

Canadian scientists have created a biological supercomputer that can process information very quickly and accurately using parallel networks just like massive electronic supercomputers do.

According to reports the supercomputer is a whole lot smaller than current supercomputers, burns much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function.

The model of bio supercomputer was created by an international team of researchers led by professor Dan Nicolau from Canada’s McGill University.

According to professor Nicolau, he began working on the idea with his son, Dan Jr., more than a decade ago and was then joined by colleagues from Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, some seven years ago.

“This started as a back of an envelope idea, after too much rum I think, with drawings of what looked like small worms exploring mazes,” he said.

The model bio-supercomputer uses a combination of geometrical modelling and engineering knowhow on the nano scale. Its circuit looks a bit like a road map of a busy and very organised city as seen from a plane.

Instead of the electrons that are propelled by an electrical charge and move around within a traditional microchip, short strings of proteins, which the researchers call biological agents, travel around the circuit in a controlled way. Their movements are powered by ATP, the chemical that is regarded as the juice of life of every living thing.

The model bio supercomputer is not only small, just about the same size as a book, but also uses the same mathematical capabilities as conventional, giant-sized supercomputers.

In addition, it is very energy-efficient and doesn’t overheat like its non-biological counterparts, making it more sustainable.

The researchers believe a more complete version may be on the cards, with the help of hybridization technology.

“One option for dealing with larger and more complex problems may be to combine our device with a conventional computer to form a hybrid device. Right now we’re working on a variety of ways to push the research further,” Nicolai said.