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The Herman Trend Alert: Using Biology To Make Computers Faster

Most of us think of viruses – both computer and biological – as being negative aspects of our lives. Viruses cause debilitating disease in humans and data destruction in computers. But in this case, the scientists discovered how to harness the power of a biological virus to do the work.

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Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional speaker. Archived editions are posted at http://www.hermangroup.com/archive.html

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When computers store data, there is a brief pause while the information moves from one piece of hardware to another. However, scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design have discovered a new manufacturing technique that will allow them to build computers that avoid these frustrating delays.

A positive virus 

Most of us think of viruses – both computer and biological – as being negative aspects of our lives. Viruses cause debilitating disease in humans and data destruction in computers. But in this case, the scientists discovered how to harness the power of a biological virus to do the work. Using the virus called a M13 bacteriophage to manufacture a specific component appears to be the key to unlock the production of what is called “phase-change memory systems” – a type of digital storage that increases the speed of any computer using it. This research was published last month in the journal, “ACS Applied Nano Materials.”

Faster storage

The way memory is transferred within a computer is the problem these viruses solve. Moving data on a hard drive from transient RAM to permanent storage can often requires several milliseconds – in spite of the fact that the RAM is high-speed. This solution replaces that two-part memory system with a single type of storage called phase-change memory would reduce that delay to about 10 nanoseconds.

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A computer bug worth having

Here’s the breakthrough: the existing manufacturing method for phase-change memory gets to a temperature high enough to destroy one of the base materials necessary for phase-change memory systems, gallium antimonide (a semiconducting compound). However, according to this research, using a virus to pull the pieces of this material together into usable wires kept the temperature much lower.

Our forecast

Once scientists master how to exploit the synergy available in the combination of organic and inorganic materials, we will all be far more productive. We have only begun to see the tremendous power of advancing technology in this field.

For more information about the phase-change memory, click here.

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