Creating a Chemical Computer that Mimics Neurons
A promising push toward a novel, biologically-inspired "chemical computer" has begun as part of an international collaboration.
The "wet computer" incorporates several recently discovered properties of chemical systems that can be hijacked to engineer computing power.
The team's approach mimics some of the actions of neurons in the brain.
The 1.8m-euro (£1.6m) project will run for three years, funded by an EU emerging technologies programme.
The programme has identified biologically-inspired computing as particularly important, having recently funded several such projects.
What distinguishes the current project is that it will make use of stable "cells" featuring a coating that forms spontaneously, similar to the walls of our own cells, and uses chemistry to accomplish the signal processing similar to that of our own neurons.
The goal is not to make a better computer than conventional ones, said project collaborator Klaus-Peter Zauner of the University of Southampton, but rather to be able to compute in new environments.
"The type of wet information technology we are working towards will not find its near-term application in running business software," Dr Zauner told BBC News.
"But it will open up application domains where current IT does not offer any solutions - controlling molecular robots, fine-grained control of chemical assembly, and intelligent drugs that process the chemical signals of the human body and act according to the local biochemical state of the cell."
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