Steps towards Biological Computing

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At the IEEE Spectrum Neil Savage reports on the use of biological materials for more eco-friendly electronics. Applications include 3D-printable gelatins for medical sensors that could be swallowed and DNA used as an electron-blocking layer in the organic LED’s (OLED’s) used in computer displays.

These promise to be both nontoxic and biodegradable – unlike the 50 million metric tons of electronics which are currently discarded every year.

But the real breakthrough point for biological materials will be when the ability of biological systems to self-replicate and self-assemble can be harnessed.

A major step towards this goal was realized when bioengineers at Stanford University created the first biological transistor made from genetic materials: DNA and RNA. Dubbed the “transcriptor,” this biological transistor is the final component required to build biological computers that operate inside living cells.


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