Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Chips a decade from now...

As we leave one decade behind and enter 2010, I'm looking ahead another decade as to how some of the manufacturing challenges of the silicon chips, which power so many things, are likely to be overcome. Current chip geometry is already at an incredible small scale compared to even a few years ago, at around 45nm with plans to move towards 22nm. But then there are challenges in actually mounting the electronic components onto the chip while preserving necessary structure. One technique, based on research which shows that DNA strands may be used as a kind of scaffolding, could reduce this down to around 6nm. The research shows that the DNA can self-organise itself on the silicon base.

Other research has shown that DNA can also be used to store and manipulate data and perform simple computations. Computing on this biological scale would enable considerable advances in computer performance. The closer together the components on a chip can be placed, the faster and smaller computers can be. Such DNA based chips are 10-15 years away, but many people celebrating new year's eve this year will remark how quickly the last decade seems to have passed!

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