The launch of a five-year Horizon 2020 project has gained €6.1m in funding to build a new type of powerful computer based on biomolecules.
The recently launched research project aims to develop a biocomputer that will develop a computer based on highly efficient molecular motors that will use a fraction of the energy of existing computers, and that can tackle problems where many solutions need to be explored simultaneously.
Dr Dan V Nicolau, from the UK-based enterprise Molecular Sense, who had the original idea of using biomolecular motors as computers, said: “Practically all really interesting mathematical problems of our time cannot be computed efficiently with our current computer technology.”
This is the limit that the new project aims to eliminate by using biomolecular motors as computing units: The idea is that biomolecular machines, each only a few billionth of a metre (nanometres) in size, can solve problems by moving through a nanofabricated network of channels designed to represent a mathematical algorithm; an approach the scientists in the project termed ‘network-based biocomputation’.
Professor Stefan Diez, who heads the participating TU Dresden, Germany, research team, said: “We are using molecular motors of the cell that have been optimised by a billion years of evolution to be highly energy efficient nanomachines.”
The research consortium will focus on developing the technology required to scale up network-based biocomputers to a point at which they are able to compete with other alternative computing approaches. In the process, they aim to attract a larger scientific and economic community that will focus on developing the technology into a viable alternative computing approach.