Have you ever thought about how small can we make transistors? What will happen if it becomes smaller? Are there any limitations? What is DNA Computing?
Typical transistors used today in computers are in nanometers and there are limitations to how smaller they can be made because as we enter the nanoscale the classical behaviours of matter and energy are different. The quantum effect will stop the transistors from performing properly.
DNA computing is the use of Biochemistry and molecular biology hardware instead of traditional silicon-based computer hardware. This doesn’t mean that transistors will be replaced by DNA structures and soon we will be playing games on DNA computers, these computers will be more reliable in solving large scale problems which are difficult for classical computers to solve.
Concept behind DNA computing
The concept of DNA computing was first described in 1994 by USC professor, Leonard Adleman, in the November 1994 Science article, Molecular Computations of Solutions to Combinatorial Problems, he was inspired to write a paper in the journal Science showing how you could use DNA to an infamous mathematical and computer science problem known as the directed Hamilton Path problem, commonly called the “traveling salesman” problem. Adleman was able to demonstrate that DNA can be assembled in such a way that a test tube full of DNA blocks could assemble themselves to encode all of the possible paths in the traveling salesman problem at the same time.
In DNA, genetic coding is represented by four different molecules, called A, T, C, and G (A [adenine], G [guanine], C [cytosine], and T [thymine]). These four “bits”, when chained together, can hold an incredible amount of data. By mixing these four molecules into a test tube, the molecules naturally assembled themselves into strands of DNA.
In Adleman’s experiment, different DNA fragments were created, each one of them representing a city that had to be visited. Every one of these fragments is capable of linkage with the other fragments created. These DNA fragments were produced and mixed in a test tube. Within seconds, the small fragments form bigger ones, representing the different travel routes. Through chemical reactions, the DNA fragments representing the longer routes were eliminated.
The reason DNA computing gained attention is that DNA structures are cheap, relatively easy to produce, scalable and it can perform countless calculations in parallel. It is likely that the advantages in this field will be faster than that in quantum computing as quantum computing requires sophisticated machinery and temperature conditions. Even though the processing speed of DNA computers is slow, it is compensated by its parallel processing.
Over the past years, several experiments have used molecular algorithms to do things like play tic-tac-toe or assemble various shapes. Microsoft even has a programming language for DNA computing and is planning on introducing DNA computing to its cloud services.
Let’s wait for more and more advancements in this domain.
Quantum computing requires an extremely cold operating environment (below 1 kelvin actually -272° C). Transistors in the computer are passing electrical signals (a lot of signals..) In the latest CPU’s transistors are getting incredibly tiny. If transistors get smaller than they are currently, then the electrical current flowing through transistors easily leaks out into other components nearby or deforms the transistor due to heat. What we need to solve this problem is another way to improve computing performance. So very promising approach is using the bio-compatible computing device. That is how DNA computing is the future!
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