Thursday, September 28, 2006

DNAology!

Author: Khalil A. Cassimally

The DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a unique molecule. It contains every single piece of genetic information of a person; just like the memory card of a PC, which contains all the data. The major difference between the DNA and the memory card of your PC though is that the microscopic DNA helix can store more data – actually about a thousand times more. So, scientists have got the bright idea of mimicking the DNA’s data-storage secrets for use on your PC’s memory card. This will lead to a more compact data processing and storage circuitry.

In the standard silicon-based chip (which is the basic unit of practically any electrical instruments) information processing is limited by the distance between the units which store and process data. With DNA scaffolding however, the interconnections can be made really short so as to increase the performance. And that’s what the scientists have been working on.

The DNA scaffolding is made up of artificial DNA ‘tiles’ that automatically join together in a predetermined pattern. The so-formed molecular fabric has many strands. These DNA strands will clip to nanocomponents coated with the matching DNA strands. The nanocomponents could be metallic particles that can store or process data in form of an electric and magnetic state or they could simply be organic molecules.

“We can now assemble a DNA scaffolding on a pre-existing template, such as a computer chip and then assemble nanocomponents on top of the DNA,” said Richard Kiehl, a professor of electrical engineering.

This technology would enable computers to identify objects in images in a blink of an eye. The speed at which the computer could find the objects would near the speed of the eye and brain doing the same thing!

Revolutions in genetics have only just begun and surprisingly we are finding ways to put the newly found data in practice – in a totally different way as first perceived, I might also add.

About the author: Khalil A.Cassimally is the editor in chief of Astronomy Journal and Astronomy Journal Ezine. He is also the co-founder of the RCPL Astronomy Club. He is currently Senior Columnist at BackWash.com and Columnist for bbc.co.uk h2g2 The Post where he writes 'Not Scientific Science' column.

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