Scientists make next-generation computers with gold and DNA

Researchers have fabricated a lattice out of gold and virus fragments. It could make your computer much faster. And turn it into a biological machine.

Optical computing technology, a growing field in the tech sector, involves computers that send data using beams of light. In order to expand the capabilities of optical computing, engineers are required to find materials that manipulate light very precisely. Photonic crystals are one such helpful material. A photonic crystal can block very precise wavelengths of light, making it a great optical tool. But creating such a crystal is a challenge. Now scientists have tested a new method for making them, and they have done using the coolest materials possible: Gold and virus parts.

Tiny gold nanospheres and pieces of virus were hooked together using strands of DNA. The DNA pieces were created specifically for the experiment. Small spheres of gold attach to certain base pairs and form part of the lattice. Gold, while malleable for a metal, is relatively heavy and rigid for such a small structure. The lattice is made more bendable by its organic component, capsids, which are what make up the protein shells of viruses. These bits of virus 'skin' string together the tough gold spheres.

A mix of all of these components - DNA, capsids, and gold spheres - self-assembles into a lattice. The structure of that lattice can, with certain materials, be made into a photonic crystal. No one would have to build a crystal to use in optical computing, mixing together the right ingredients could make it build itself.

Sung Yong Park, one of the scientists who worked on the project, was excited by the jump from mechanical to organic assembly:

Organic materials interact in ways very different from metal nanoparticles. The fact that we were able to make such different materials work together and be compatible in a single structure demonstrates some new opportunities for building nano-sized devices.

No word on what happens when the virus bits and the DNA combine to make self-reproducing computers. It will probably be the end of the world. Who knew it would come in the form of crystalline gold viruses?

Via Nature Materials.