Biological computers, ever so present in fiction, are becoming very real and very practical. A research team has created a model of a supercomputer that runs on biological energy, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is used by all living things, including humans.
Professor Dan Nicolau, the Chair of the Department of Bio-engineering at McGill University led to the creation of this biological computer. This new type of computer uses less energy and is able to process information very quickly. You can see their research Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area,” says Dan Nicolau. “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.”
Modern computers use electricity to power their microchips, which can lead to a buildup of heat.These new bio computers are powered by ATP-powered protein strings that move within pathways on a 1.5 cm chip. Not only would bio computers stay cool this would allow bio computers to be small and compact, about the size of a book. Which is not very surprising because in the past, not too long ago, modern computers used to be monstrosities.
The bio computers efficient use of organic energy, fast processing times, and ability to tackle complex problems might allow them to overtake traditional electronic computers in the future.