Microchips to be built from DNA

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Well, in a world where its all about small stuff – small cars, small computers, small phones – it’s no wonder IBM is now basing new microchips on life’s building blocks: DNA molecules.

Credit: IBM Research
Credit: IBM Research

The DNA molecules are used by chip designers as ”scaffolding” to create origami-like complex patterns on top of which they can add carbon nanotubes, nanowires, and other microscopic materials that control the flow of electronics across a microchip.

Paul Rothmund, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology, discovered several years ago that DNA molecules can be made to “self-assemble” into tiny forms such as triangles, squares and stars. The approach takes advantage of DNA’s natural ability to incorporate large amounts of complex information that can be applied to different types of activities. His work, together with his colleagues, is now the basis for this new technique.

“The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore’s Law (that computing power at a given cost doubles every two years) and a concern across the semiconductor industry,” Spike Narayan, Science & Technology manager at IBM’s Almaden research lab in San Jose, CA., said.

So what does all of these bring? Smaller chips for greater speed performance and reduced power consumption that are less expensive and easier to manufacture.

Don’t get to excited though, as it will still be long time before these chips can be put to practical use.

“It’s too early to say whether this will be a game changer,” Bob Allen, senior manager of chemistry and materials at IBM Research, said.

IBM plans to publish a paper on the research in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/170288/ibm_scientists_build_computer_chips_from_dna.html