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Flexible DNA computer finds square roots

New digital circuit designed to use molecules to crunch a wider variety of complex math problems

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3:39pm, June 2, 2011

DNA, the molecule of life, turns mathlete.

Using the natural zipping and unzipping behavior of DNA strands, researchers at Caltech have developed a new and adaptable method for turning the molecules into calculators. The design opens up a range of possible circuits built entirely from DNA, capable of crunching basic math problems, the team reports in the June 3 Science.

“This is way beyond cool,” says Andrew Ellington, a biotechnologist at the University of Texas at Austin. “This is complex and sophisticated.”

The Caltech team’s initial design, a circuit made from 130 unique DNA strands, calculates the square root of numbers up to 15. In this number cruncher, different types of DNA strands represent 1s and 0s, the binary numbers used in standard digital circuits.

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