Pictured: two views of an amazing breakthrough. Also some Corn Chex.
Chris Dwyer, an assistant professor at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, has published a paper (pdf file) on creating waffle-shaped nanostructures out of DNA. The nanostructures could be used as sensors in biomedical devices and as eventual replacements for computer chips. They contain light-sensitive chromophores which can encode information using differences in the color of light:
“When light is shined on the chromophores, they absorb it, exciting the electrons,” [Chris] Dwyer said. “The energy released passes to a different type of chromophore nearby that absorbs the energy and then emits light of a different wavelength. That difference means this output light can be easily differentiated from the input light, using a detector.” Instead of conventional circuits using electrical current to rapidly switch between zeros or ones, or to yes and no, light can be used to stimulate similar responses from the DNA-based switches – and much faster. [Physorg]
These DNA-based logic circuits can be produced more quickly and cheaply than silicon-based chips. Also, they look like Corn Chex, which means if you build a computer out of these you’ll feel compelled to dig for Melba toast pieces and throw all the Wheat Chex bits at your cat.