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Is the Age of Bio-Computers Upon Us?



Imagine a world where nature and technology join forces allowing us to maintain our information age but while also working alongside biology? What if we were able to create a living, breathing machines that were patterned after the organisms all around us on the earth today?  

Such ideas and debates have been all throughout science fiction movies, books and discussions but has never really been something we could grasp, until now.  

By studying the biology of our bodies researchers are developing the first living computers.

The exact substance that provides the cells with energy in our bodies is called, Adenosine triphosphate or for short, ATP. An international research team that was led by Prof. Nicolau who is the Chair of the Department of Bioengineering from McGill, strongly believes that this type of substance could possibly be exactly what is utilized to power the next upcoming generations of supercomputers.

This new model of supercomputer would be much smaller than the ones used today, utilizing proteins that are naturally present in all living cells, at the same time using a lot less energy.

Dan Nicolau says,

“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area.”

The diagram of the circuit the researchers have created kind of resembles the way a large cities roads work. For example in a city you have all different shapes and sizes of vehicles and roads, overpasses and underpasses. A more efficient way of transferring information back and forth.  

If you look at an overhead view of a city, you will see a perfect example, a type of system that can effectively transfer data. A cities roads can typically get you somewhere faster and more organized than a single lane road in which everyone is trying to drive down at the exact same time.

More sustainable computing

In the case of this new biocomputer, this huge city is a tiny chip that only measures about 1.5 cm square in which the channels “roads” have been etched into the material.  Instead of the electrons being powered by electrical charges and move around within a normal, traditional microchip, the short strings of proteins (named biological agents by the researchers) travel all around the circuit in a more controlled way, their every movement fueled by ATP, the chemical, or juice so to speak, for everything from plants to politicians.

Compared to the standard energy output of the supercomputers of today, the energy required to power the new bio supercomputers would be far less, ultimately allowing it to be more sustainable for longer periods of time.  Nowadays our modern-day supercomputers use so much electricity, including heating up from the processing power, pretty much need a whole darn power plant just to function at all.

So to pretty much sum up that more scientific talk,  the scientists were able to create a bio-supercomputer, utilizing the way the human body process energy and information within itself to function. Every item having its own path or road throughout the body to increase processing power.  So why not get the computer to do the same thing.

Moving from model to reality

Remember though, since the model of that bio-supercomputer was able to efficiently handle a complex classical mathematical problem by utilizing the parallel computing of the kind used by modern supercomputers, the researchers were then able to recognize that even though this idea has so much potential, they still have a lot of work ahead of them when moving up to constructing a full-scale functional computer.

Nicolau says,

“Now that this model exists as a way of successfully dealing with a single problem, there are going to be many others who will follow up and try to push it further, using different biological agents, for example. It’s hard to say how soon it will be before we see a full scale bio super-computer. 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.”

We are now just discovering the secrets of the nano-bio technology from sci-fi films and comic books.  At this rate, the things of science fiction may soon be normal everyday science.

So pretty much what this means is that these guys were able to look at how the human body functions, such as processing information throughout the body, and figure out a way to allow our computers processors to do the same thing.  Before you know it all of our cell phones and desktop computers will become so small and powerful that the technology in movies such as avatar will be the thing of tomorrow.


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