New Tech: Will DNA Replace Silicon?

Today, most semiconductor chips are crafted from silicon, a relatively expensive material we commonly call “sand.” But researchers at Duke University are designing logic chips from self-assembling DNA. The team hopes the process will provide a cheap, easy method of making chips, eventually eliminating the need for silicon semiconductor chips altogether.

To create the DNA chips, engineer Chris Dwyer and his team made and mixed snippets of DNA and other molecules that assembled themselves into billions of tiny, waffle-like structures. Using light rather than electricity, Dwyer turned the structures into logic circuits. Using that process, the team can create a virtually endless supply of logic circuits. The light-sensitive DNA switches can move signals through a device at much higher speeds than computers and electrical circuits that run on electricity. Plus, DNA is cheap; silicon is expensive. Dwyer says that a single grad student using DNA to make self-assembling circuits could produce more logic circuits in one day than the global silicon chip industry can create in a month. We think Dwyer can expect a visit from Intel.

Welcome to our bio-computing future!

Jason McManus via Popular Science


"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily