Nanotechnology Introduction Series:
Computers

By: Dr Stanley Crawford (Ed.D)

The impact of nanotechnology on computers has a few unique twists; which are mainly in the research and development phases. Three areas we will discuss in this article, nanotechnology and traditional computer components, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) computing, and quantum computing [1].  Nanotechnology is the development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and construct structures in the physical size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm), as well as the incorporation of these structures into applications [2].  When speaking of nanometers it is good to keep a comparison in mind that will help you keep the size of a nanometer in perspective; 1 inch = 25,400,000 nanometers.

Graphene-one-atom-thick-material-of-the-futureFirst, we will discuss nanotechnology and impact on the traditional computer components.  The heart of the computer is the microprocessor.   For the most part, the microprocessor is composed of several million transistors.  These transistors form what is known as an integrated circuit.  In addition, these transistors in various combinations and configurations allow the computer to conduct various operations.  Up until nanotechnology research and development, transistors have been composed primarily of silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide.  Nanotechnology has resulted in the research and development of the graphene transistor.  Graphene is made of carbon atoms bound together in a network of repeating hexagons within a single plane just one atom thick.  Graphene transistors can be constructed with a single transistor being the size of a molecule [3].  This would allow for more transistors to be placed for instance in a microprocessor.  A couple of properties of graphene transistors that make them attractive are their self-cooling ability and their ability to work with minimum noise; as compared to silicon components [3].

Now let us turn to DNA computing, DNA computing uses DNA, biochemistry and molecular biology to perform computing operations.  This form of computing is still in the research and development phases.  A few additional points about DNA computing:

  • DNAzymes have been used in order to perform Boolean algebra operations.
  • DNAzymes have potential for nanomedicine applications.  For example, DNAzyme-based logic might contribute to devices that use biomarkers as a trigger for anti-sense or protein inhibitors. [4].
  • DNA has been shown useful for the storage of information.  Recently, a research team stored five files totaling about 750 kilobytes of data as DNA [5].

When using DNA, the 0’s and 1’s are replaced by the four DNA bases: A, C, G, and T. In addition, operations can be converted into strands of DNA [6].

The next area is quantum computing, quantum computing is probably more theoretical than practical at this point.  However, progress is being made that will likely bring quantum computing to a functional reality.  Quantum computing’s future has been compared to that of what transistors did to vacuum tubes.  It is expected that quantum computing will be significantly more powerful than our current computers.  For example, current computers manipulate bits that exist as either 0 or 1, two states; quantum computers work with quantum bits called qubits.  Qubits are atoms, ions, photons or electrons; as well as, their respective control devices.  This allows a quantum computer to perform a million computations at once, while current computers work on only one at once [7].  When considering the advancements made first with transistors and then microprocessors; the world with quantum computing will be propelled into a tomorrow beyond most individual’s wildest dreams.

References

[1] B. Kaewkamnerdpong, P.J. Bentley, Computer science for nanotechnology: Needs and opportunities, Retrieved from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/112095400/Computer-Science-for-Nanotechnology-Needs-and-Opportunities, March 14, 2013.

[2] R.N. Kostoff, R.G. Koytcheff, C.G.Y. Lau, Global nanotechnology research literature overview, Technological forecasting & Social Change, 2007, Volume 74, 1733-1747.

[3] J.B. Chahardeh, A review of graphene transistors, International Journal of Advance Research in Computer and Communication Engineering, 2012, Volume 1, Issue 4, 193-197.

[4] J. Elbaz, O. Lioubashevski, f. Wang, F. Remacle, R.D. Levine, I. Willner, DNA computing circuits using libraries of DNAzymen subunits, Nature Nanotechnology, 2010, volum 5, 417-422.

[5] R. Ehrenberg, DNA could soon prove practical for long-term data storage, Science News, February, 23, 2013, 5-6.

[6] C. Stuart, The future of computing power—from DNA hard drives to quantum chips, The guardian, Retrieved March 14, 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/nanotechnology-world/the-future-of-computing-power-from-dna-hard-drives-to-quantum-chips

[7] K. Bonsor, J. Strickland, How quantum computers work, Retrieved from http://www.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer.htm, March 17, 2013.


Category: Nanotechnology