1,100 Words

DNA computing

Tiny spirals of DNA can encode more than just the color of your eyes or the shape of your nose. Using self-assembling DNA wires, Duke engineer Chris Dwyer is building optical computing chips so compact that you could cram 5,000 movies on a single CD-sized disc. The chromophores (red dots) absorb light and transform it into packets of energy called excitons. Then these excitons leap from chromophore to chromophore in a specific pattern. With this approach, Dwyer’s team has created DNA-based logic elements that are just two nanometers wide – less than one tenth the size of the smallest semiconductor transistor.