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How Chemical Reactions Compute

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polymer vesicles from a chemical computation experiment

Polymer vesicles from a chemical computation experiment in 2017.

Credit: Nature

Harvard Professor Juan-Pérez Mercader sees chemical reactions as a kind of computation, and says molecules have enormous potential as tools of computation.

Molecules when they react follow the same steps that describe computation: input, transformation, output. "This is a very powerful computing tool that needs to be harnessed," says Pérez-Mercader, noting that a single mole of a substance has 1023 elementary chemical processors capable of computation. For the last few years, Pérez-Mercader has been developing a field he calls "native chemical computation." He wants to not only exploit chemical computing but also find challenges for which it's best-suited.

Pérez-Mercader and his chief collaborator on the project, Marta Dueñas-Díez, review their progress on chemical computation in "Native Chemical Computation. A Generic Application of Oscillating Chemistry Illustrated With the Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction," published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry.

From Santa Fe Institute
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