DNA has been the star of more science fiction films than I can remember— but who can really blame Hollywood? It is after all the molecule that makes you, you, and me, me. It’s a symbol of what we’ve come to know, and what we have yet to discover: science that mesmerizes everyone.
But beyond just the traditional applications of the information we receive from DNA, we’ve seen scientist do some interesting things with it—from storing 70 Billion copies of a book to sequencing the molecule of life in zero-gravity, the unconventional applications seem endless.
The next big thing may be having this 3.8 billion-year-old molecule in the circuitry of our newest electronics.
As our devices become smaller, engineers are hard pressed to complement the physical limitations of nature. Today’s silicon-based computer chips house 14 nm wide transistors that can obstruct neighboring transistors while failing to account for quantum tunneling, making it difficult to reduce size while optimizing efficiency. That is why DNA, 2 nm wide, may be a possible solution for its stability, size, and programmable structure.
In fact, just this past April, scientists have made the world’s smallest diode with a molecule of DNA that is 11 base pairs long and a layer of coralyne, confirming the plausibilities. While another team, going further in depth, was able to verify that an alternating cascade of guanine (G) bases would better conduct electrons in DNA over longer distances due to DNA’s ability to complement the electron’s wave-like behavior. What’s even more interesting is that their experiment suggests that “highways” of electrons can be fine tuned based upon how the DNA is assembled—opening up the possibility of fine-tuned DNA nanotechnologies.
While much of this is really in theory and won’t have a commercial application any time soon, it is thought-provoking to imagine how powerful DNA truly can be—and by extension how powerful we can be.
A video of Dr.Michio Kaku discussing the post-silicon era and molecular computing: