Molecular computing is an emerging field to which chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, electronic engineering, solid state physics and computer science contribute to a large extent. It involves the encoding, manipulation and retrieval of information at a macromolecular level in contrast to the current techniques, which accomplish the above functions via 1C miniaturization of bulk devices. The biological systems have unique abilities such as pattern recognition, learning, self-assembly and self-reproduction as well as high speed and parallel information processing. The aim of this article is to exploit these characteristics to build computing systems, which have many advantages over their inorganic (Si,Ge) counterparts.
How do they work?
DNA is the major information storage molecule in living cells, and billions of years of evolution have tested and refined both this wonderful informational molecule and highly specific enzymes that can either duplicate the information in DNA molecules or transmit this information to other DNA molecules.
Instead of using electrical impulses to represent bits of information, the DNA computer uses the chemical properties of these molecules by examining the patterns of combination or growth of the molecules or strings. DNA can do this through the manufacture of enzymes, which are biological catalysts that could be called the 'software' used to execute the desired calculation.
DNA computers use deoxyribonucleic acids—A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and T (thymine)--as the memory units, and recombinant DNA techniques already in existence carry out the fundamental operations. In a DNA computer, computation takes place in test tubes or on a glass slide coated in 24K gold. The input and output are both strands of DNA, whose genetic sequences encode certain information. A program on a DNA computer is executed as a series of biochemical operations, which have the effect of synthesizing, extracting, modifying and cloning the DNA strands. Their potential power underscores how nature could be capable of crunching number better and faster than the most advanced silicon chips
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