Scientists pioneer method for DNA microchips

17/08/2009

Researchers have found a way to create a new generation of tiny microchips that use DNA – rather than traditional silicon – to achieve potentially revolutionary advances in computing.

A team based at IBM’s Alamaden research facility in San Jose, California, has found a method for building chips that they believe could eventually replace the current standards for creating electrical circuits using silicon wafers.

The technique, which was developed in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology, creates tiny microchips using strands of DNA and carbon nanotubes – microscopic cylinders constructed from carbon molecules.

In a paper published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal, the team describes a method that uses so-called “DNA origami” – pieces of genetic material which can be arranged into patterns similar to those used in the microchips common in computers and other electronic devices.

After creating a scaffold of DNA, nanotubes are then inserted into the design to build a microchip that is several times smaller – and therefore faster – than anything that today’s most advanced techniques can achieve.

“This is the first demonstration of using biological molecules to help with processing in the semiconductor industry,” IBM research manager Spike Narayan told Reuters.

“Basically, this is telling us that biological structures like DNA actually offer some very reproducible, repetitive kinds of patterns that we can actually leverage in semiconductor processes.”

Read the full story on the Guardian website.

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