Right now, most semiconductor chips (those tiny pieces that are crucial to computers and electrical circuits) are crafted from silicon, a relatively expensive material. But what if we told you that these teensy, crucial cogs could be made from a material that lives within the human body? Researchers at Duke University are designing logic chips from self-assembling DNA. The team hopes the process will provide a cheap, easy method of making chips, eventually eliminating the need for silicon semiconductor chips altogether.

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Photo courtesy of Popular Science

To create the chips, engineer Chris Dwyer and his team made and mixed snippets of DNA and other molecules. These pieces assembled themselves into billions of tiny, waffle-like structures. Using light rather than electricity, Dwyer turned the structures into logic circuits. Using that process, the team can create a virtually endless supply of logic circuits. To put things into perspective, Dwyer says that a single grad student using DNA to make self-assembling circuits could produce more logic circuits in one day than the global silicon chip industry can create in a month!

Abundance isn’t the only benefit to using DNA instead of silicon. For one, light-sensitive DNA switches can move signals through a device at much higher speeds than computers and electrical circuits that run on electricity. Plus, DNA is cheap; silicon is expensive.

The tech is still being optimized, but it sounds incredibly promising. The next computer you buy just may contain DNA-based chips instead of silicon, semiconductor chips.

Via Popular Science