Imagine information stored on something only a hundredth the size of the next generation computer chip--and made from natures own storage molecule, DNA. A team led by Richard Kiehl, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, has used the selective "stickiness" of DNA to construct a scaffolding for closely spaced nanoparticles that could exchange information on a scale of only 10 angstroms (an angstrom is one 10-billionth of a meter). The technique allows the assembly of components on a much smaller scale and with much greater precision than is possible with current manufacturing methods, Kiehl said. The work is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.
"In a standard silicon-based chip, information processing is limited by the distance between units that store and share information," said Kiehl. "With these DNA crystals, we can lay out devices closely so that the interconnects are very short. If nanoparticles are spaced even 20 angstroms apart on such a DNA crystal scaffolding, a chip could hold 10 trillion bits per square centimeter--thats 100 times as much information as in the 64 Gigabit D-RAM memory projected for 2010. By showing how to assemble nanoscale components in periodic arrangements, weve taken the first step toward this goal."
Eventually, a chip made from DNA crystals and nanoparticles could be valuable in such applications as real-time image processing, Kiehl said. Nanocomponents could be clustered in pixel-like "cells" that would process information internally and also by "talking" to other cells. The result could be improved noise filtering and detection of edges or motion. Someday, the technology may even help computers identify images with something approaching the speed of the human eye and brain, said Kiehl.
Deane Morrison | EurekAlert!
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