Nav: Home

Molecular motor-powered biocomputers

March 20, 2017

Crashing computers or smartphones and software security holes that allow hackers to steal millions of passwords could be prevented if it were possible to design and verify error-free software. Unfortunately, to date, this is a problem that neither engineers nor supercomputers can solve. One reason is that the computing power required to verify the correct function of a many types of software scales exponentially with the size of the program, so that processing speed, energy consumption and cooling of conventional microelectronic processors prevent current computers from verifying large programs.

The recently launched research project aims to develop a biocomputer that can overcome the two main obstacles faced by today's supercomputers: first, they use vast amounts of electric power - so much that the development of more powerful computers is hampered primarily by limitations in the ability to cool the processors. Second, they cannot do two things at the same time. The EU now funds a project 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.

The potential impact of the project results is not limited to the design of error-free software: "Practically all really interesting mathematical problems of our time cannot be computed efficiently with our current computer technology." says Dan V. Nicolau, Ph.D. M.D., from the UK-based enterprise Molecular Sense, who had the original idea of using biomolecular motors as computers. This is the limit that the new project aims to push by using biomolecular motors as computing units: The idea is that biomolecular machines, each only a few billionth of a meter (nanometers) in size, can solve problems by moving through a nanofabricated network of channels designed to represent a mathematical algorithm (see fig. 1); an approach the scientists in the project termed "network-based biocomputation". Whenever the biomolecules reach a junction in the network, they either add a number to the sum they are calculating or leave it out. That way, each biomolecule acts as a tiny computer with processor and memory. While an individual biomolecule is much slower than a current computer, they are self-assembling so that they can be used in large numbers, quickly adding up their computing power. The researchers have demonstrated that this works in a recent publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA (PNAS). "We are using molecular motors of the cell that have been optimized by a billion years of evolution to be highly energy efficient nanomachines.", says Prof. Stefan Diez who is heading the participating TU Dresden research team, "and the biological computing units can multiply themselves to adapt to the difficulty of the mathematical problem." adds Dr. Till Korten from TU Dresden, co-coordinator of the Bio4Comp project and equally contributing first author of the PNAS publication.

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 such as DNA computing and quantum computing. 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. To do so, they have received 6.1 Million € from the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) programme of the EU to run a highly interdisciplinary research project touching mathematics, biology, engineering, and computation. Of this funding, 1.1 million € will go to the research group of Stefan Diez, Professor for BioNanoTools at B CUBE, a TU Dresden research institute focusing on Molecular Bioengineering, and fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) Dresden. The role of the group will be to modify the properties of motor proteins, such as kinesin, in order to optimize them for biocomputation, as well as to integrate them into nanofabricated devices. This work will strongly benefit from synergies and collaborations with the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed), one of the current Clusters of Excellence at TU Dresden. "Optimizing the motors not only gives us ideal tools for nanotechnology, but at the same time we learn a great deal about how they work and what they do inside the cell.", Diez says. These insights will be useful beyond the specific project goals, for example to elucidate the roles of these proteins in serious diseases such as cancer and dementia.
-end-
The project Bio4Comp (2017-2021) is funded by Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for Research and Innovation under under Grant Agreement No 732482. More information can be found on the research consortium's webpage: http://www.bio4comp.eu.

Media Inquiries:

Stefan Diez, Professor for BioNanoTools
B CUBE - Center for Molecular Bioengineering
Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0) 351 463-43010
stefan.diez@tu-dresden.de
http://www.tu-dresden.de/bcube

Contact list of project partners:

Partner 1: Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Heiner Linke, Professor of Nanophysics; Director of NanoLund
Tel.: +46 (0) 46 222 4245
heiner.linke@ftf.lth.se
Kristina Lindgärde, Pressansvarig vid Kommunikation och Samverkan, LTH
Tel.: +46 (0) 46 222 0769
kristina.lindgarde@kansli.lth.se
http://www.nano.lu.se/

Partner 2: Linné-University Kalmar, Kalmar, Sweden
Alf Månsson, professor i fysiologi
Tel.: +46 (0) 70 886 6243
Annika Sand, pressansvarig
Tel.: +46 (0) 76 830 0105
https://lnu.se/en/research/searchresearch/the-molecular-motor-and-bionano-group/

Partner 3: Molecular Sense Ltd., Oxford, U.K.
Dan V. Nicolau, PhD. MD.
https://molecularsense.com/

Partner 4: Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
Dr. Hillel Kugler
Tel.: +972 (0) 3 7384437
kugler.hillel@biu.ac.il
http://www.eng.biu.ac.il/hillelk/

Partner 5: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Wissenschaften e.V.

Prof. Stefan E. Schulz
Tel.: +49 (0) 371 45001-232
stefan.schulz@enas.fraunhofer.de
https://www.fraunhofer.de/

Links

To PNAS paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/113/10/2591.full?sid=5d9e45c4-6338-461e-9c93-a74c5ca7b6ed

To web-site: http://www.bio4comp.eu

Technische Universität Dresden

Related Technology Articles:

How technology use affects at-risk adolescents
More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems over time for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
Hold-up in ventures for technology transfer
The transfer of technology brings ideas closer to commercialization. The transformation happens in several steps, such as invention, innovation, building prototypes, production, market introduction, market expansion, after sales services.
The ultimate green technology
Imagine patterning and visualizing silicon at the atomic level, something which, if done successfully, will revolutionize the quantum and classical computing industry.
New technology detects COPD in minutes
Pioneering research by Professor Paul Lewis of Swansea University's Medical School into one of the most common lung diseases in the UK, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has led to the development of a new technology that can quickly and easily diagnose and monitor the condition.
New technology for powder metallurgy
Tecnalia leads EFFIPRO (Energy EFFIcient PROcess of Engineering Materials) project, which shows a new manufacturing process using powder metallurgy.
New milestone in printed photovoltaic technology
A team of researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität have achieved an important milestone in the quest to develop efficient solar technology as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Gene Drive Technology: Where is the future?
For this episode of BioScience Talks, we're joined by Gene Drive Committee co-chair James P.
Could Hollywood technology help your health?
The same technology used by the entertainment industry to animate characters such as Gollum in 'The Lord of The Rings' films, will be used to help train elite athletes, for medical diagnosis and even to help improve prosthetic limb development, in a new research center at the University of Bath launched today.
Assessing carbon capture technology
Carbon capture and storage could be used to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and thus ameliorate their impact on climate change.
New technology for dynamic projection mapping
It has been thought technically difficult to achieve projection mapping onto a moving/rotating object so that images look as though they are fixed to the object.

Related Technology Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...