A team headed by chemist Stan Williams and computer
architect Phil Kuekes has created a molecular-based logic
gate. Logic gates are a basic building block
of all computers. Eventually, the researchers hope to build
entire memory chips that are just a hundred nanometers wide,
smaller than a bacterium.
The HP researchers, working with a UCLA team led by chemistry
professor James Heath, published the results of their work
in the July 16 issue of the journal Science.
These molecular computer processors could wind up in wristwatch-sized
supercomputers, woven into clothing or even in fingernail
polish.Eventually, they may replace integrated circuits inside
PCs. Chemical processors will be able to do all sorts of things
silicon can't. For starters, they won't lose information if
they lose electricity. Kuekes envisions all sorts of biomedical
"They'll be able to snuggle up to a bacterium and determine
if it's tuberculosis, and even what type of TB it is," he
The group's research could be the answer to the problems of the physical
and fiscal limits of conventional silicon chips. To make computers
more powerful, chipmakers have had to cram more and more transistors
and wires onto processors. That requires increasingly complex methods
of fabrication, which is driving up the cost of chip-manufacturing
facilities. Costs are expected to reach $50 billion in a little over
Chemical assembly isn't perfect - but it doesn't have to be. Thanks
to a computer architecture developed at HP Labs, computers will
be able to function perfectly even if the chips aren't perfect.
Using this architecture, the HP supercomputer, Teramac, has solved
problems 100 times faster than a workstation, even though three-quarters
of Teramac's 864 chips are defective.
To learn more
Quantum Science Research
To see the full article, pick up the July 16 issue of Science
magazine C.P. Collier, E.W. Wong, M. Belohradsky, F.J. Raymo,
J.F. Stoddart, P.J. Kuekes, R.S. Williams, and J.R. Heath, "Electronically
Configurable Molecular-Based Logic Gates," Science, v. 285,
No. 5426, p. 391, 16 July 1999.