Scientists Build Energy-efficient Biological Supercomputer

Posted: Feb 28 2016, 2:48am CST | by , Updated: Feb 29 2016, 10:03pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Build Energy-efficient Biological Supercomputer
Credit: McGill University

The newly-designed supercomuter is smaller than conventional supercomputers but tackles complex mathematical problems as quickly and accuratley as massive supercomuters can do.

Researchers have built a new biological supercomputer which utilizes adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as a source of power.  

ATP is a substance that is considered to be the ‘energy currency of life.' It provides energy to all the cells in our body and researchers believe that this substance has the capacity to power the next generation of supercomputers as well.

The newly-designed computer is just like a normal electronic supercomputer. It can process data as quickly and accurately as traditional computers can do but it needs to be attached with parallel networks.

The real difference is that biological supercomputer is significantly smaller and utilizes less energy for storing and analyzing data. The supercomputer depends on highly energy efficient protein filaments for performing its functions and is roughly about the size of a book. It took scientists more than 10 years to complete the prototype.

“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area,” said Professor Dan Nicolau, the leader of the research team and chairman of Department of Bioengineering at McGill University. “This started as a back of an envelope idea…with drawings of what looked like small worms exploring mazes.”

Because the supercomputer is powered by biological agents, it saves energy and hardly overheats. Thus, it doesn’t need to be cooled. Traditional supercomputers, on the other hand, consume so much electricity, that they heat up frequently and often require their own their own power plant for functioning.

The new supercomputer is a combination of engineering and geometric modeling and is possibility a new way to solve difficult mathematical problems. Though, it’s the first biological computer of this kind that actually works but still researchers believe it requires a lot of work to be considered a full-scale functional computer.

“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,” said Nicolau. “It’s hard to say how soon it will be before we see a full-scale bio supercomputer. One option for dealing with larger and more complex problems may be to combine our device with a conventional computer to form a hybrid device. Right now we are working on a variety of ways to push the research further.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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