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Building Living, Breathing Supercomputers


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Building living, breathing supercomputers.

Researchers at McGill University have created a model of a biological computer that can process information quickly and accurately.

Credit: Till Korten

McGill University researchers says adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the substance that provides energy to human cells, also could be used to power the next generation of supercomputers.

They created a model of a biological computer that can process information quickly and accurately using parallel networks in the same way electronic supercomputers do. However, they say their biological supercomputer is much smarter than current supercomputers, uses much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function.

Instead of utilizing electrons that are propelled by an electrical charge and move around within a traditional microchip, the biological supercomputer has short strings of proteins, called biological agents, which travel around the circuit in a controlled way, powered by ATP. Since the supercomputer is run by biological agents, it produces very little heat and uses far less energy than standard electronic supercomputers, making it more sustainable.

The researchers say the biological supercomputer was able to efficiently solve a complex classical mathematical problem using parallel computing, but there is still a lot of work to be done to create a full-scale functional biological supercomputer.

"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," says McGill professor Dan Nicolau.

From McGill Newsroom
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