Researchers have succeeded in designing and building an energy-efficient biological supercomputer that doesn’t overheat, reports United Press International. Most supercomputers are enormous, frequently overheat, and consume a huge amount of energy. Some must even be powered by their own power plant. Instead the team of international researchers, headed by Dan Nicolau, a computer scientist at McGill University in Canada, have made a supercomputer the size of a book that runs on the same biochemical substance that provides energy to all the cells in the human body. Nicolau said that their design packs an extremely complex network into a small space:
We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area.
By running on adenosine triphosphate, otherwise known as ATP, the supercomputer avoids the problems of overheating often associated with other supercomputers. In a conventional microchip, electrons are propelled by an electrical charge, causing them to move around, whereas the bio-computer works by using ATP to drive tiny strings of protein around the circuit, explains Business Standard in a recent report. The bio-computer’s circuit resembles the road map of a well organized and tightly packed city seen from the air.
The ultimate goal is to design an entirely biological supercomputer that can replace traditional supercomputers. While the bio-computer is not yet at the stage, its inventors believe that this will soon change, especially as other computer scientists begin to build upon the discoveries made by Nicolau and his team. In the meantime a pragmatic solution may be to make hybrid computers mixing traditional and biological technologies, an avenue that Nicolau and his team are already exploring and hope that others will also do. As Nicolau says, now that his version of the bio-computer exists, others will be able to try out variations on his design, using alternative biological agents:
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.
As it stands, Nicolau’s bio-computer is already capable of rapidly and efficiently processing highly complex classical mathematical problems by using the same kind of parallel computing employed by supercomputers