DNA computers will be the next-generation computers made of genes' building blocks. Because of their speed, miniaturization and data storage potential DNA computers are being considered as a replacement for silicon-based computers. Current DNA computer research has already proven that DNA computers are capable of solving complex mathematical equations and storing enormous amounts of data.
Limitation of Silicon Chips
Silicon-based computer chips have been around for more than 40 years and manufacturers have been successful in making silicon-based chips smaller, more complex and faster than their predecessors. According to Moore's Law, microprocessor size is halved every eighteen months. However, there is a limitation to how small, fast and compact silicon computer chips can be.
Advantages of DNA Computers
DNA computers show promise because they do not have the limitations of silicon-based chips. For one, DNA based chip manufacturers will always have an ample supply of raw materials as DNA exists in all living things; this means generally lower overhead costs. Secondly, the DNA chip manufacture does not produce toxic by-products. Last but not the least, DNA computers will be much smaller than silicon-based computers as one pound of DNA chips can hold all the information stored in all the computers in the world.
With the use of DNA logic gates, a DNA computer the size of a teardrop will be more powerful than today's most powerful supercomputer. A DNA chip less than the size of a dime will have the capacity to perform 10 trillion parallel calculations at one time as well as hold ten terabytes of data. The capacity to perform parallel calculations, much more trillions of parallel calculations, is something silicon-based computers are not able to do. As such, a complex mathematical problem that could take silicon-based computers thousands of years to solve can be done by DNA computers in hours. For this reason, the first use of DNA computers will most probably be cracking of codes, route planning and complex simulations for the government.
History of DNA Computers
The first person who thought of and experimented with DNA as an alternative to silicon chips was Leonard Adleman, a computer scientist working in the University of Southern California. The 1994 experiment using DNA as a way of solving complex mathematical problems was a product of a book's influence (Molecular Biology of the Gene written by James Watson).
DNA computers will work through the use of DNA-based logic gates. These logic gates are very much similar to what is used in our computers today with the only difference being the composition of the input and output signals. In the current technology of logic gates, binary codes from the silicon transistors are converted into instructions that can be carried out by the computer. DNA computers, on the other hand, use DNA codes in place of electrical signals as inputs to the DNA logic gates. DNA computers are, however, still in its infancy and though it may be very fast in providing possible answers, narrowing these answers down still takes days.