Future of computing may lie in organic molecules

Researchers model a processor on how the brain works, taking their blueprints from observations of nature.

Some of us may swear our computers have a personality, but we know they're not really alive. But a future generation of computing devices may, in fact, have organic components.

Some efforts to develop the future of computing range from photonics to spintronics-based computing, or even utilizing Cell microprocessors which can reportedly clock from 4 to 4.6 GHz with no problem. Now, a group of researchers from the U.S. and Japan have built a parallel computer made from organic molecules. In the years to come, your processors might be more organism than machine!

The researchers' goal is to build a computer processor that can solve problems with a heavier use of hardware than complex software, because excessive software can add time to the processing. To get closer to their goal they have been trying to mimic the way the human brain acts.

A brain is full of billions of neurons all connected together and working in complex networks to solve problems, often in parallel (more than one task at a time). The brain also has the ability to learn from its memory -- something all computer processors lack. By developing a biological processor, the computer may be able to solve complex problems faster from previously learned knowledge(in memory) and may be able to solve problems faster due to the added benefit of parallel computing like a brain.

To build their "processor" the researchers deposited two layers of 2, 3-dichloro-5, 6-dicyano-p-benzoquinone, also known as DDQ, onto a gold surface. The team then used a scanning tunneling microscope to encode information into the layers of organic material by transmitting electric pulses through it. This creates electric circuits between the molecules that can compute. The team then tested their prototype by successfully simulating phenomenons in nature.

The team hopes to create a truly brain-like computer that will be able to solve a variety of problems just like the human brain, using algae nonetheless. Since silicon-based processors can only get so small(11nm may be the limit), companies like Intel, AMD and IBM will have to take up other horizons-biological computing may be closer than you think!

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James Mulroy

PC World (US online)
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