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Chemical Computer That Mimics Neurons to be Created

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neural cell concept

Credit: Gareth Jones / BBC

A team of international researchers is developing a new way of building computing machinery inspired by chemical processes in living systems. The project, led by the University of Southampton's Klaus-Peter Zauner, makes use of stable "cells" with a spontaneously forming coating, similar to the walls of human cells, and uses chemistry to process signals like neurons do in the brain. The new technology "will open up application domains where current [information technology] does not offer any solutions — controlling molecular robots, fine-grained control of chemical assembly, and intelligent drugs that process the chemical signals of the human body and act according to the local biochemical state of the cell," Zauner says.

The research is based on two concepts. First, the computing "cells" are encased in a lipid, which holds the liquid-based cell together. When the lipid layer of one cell touches the lipid layer of another cell, it forms a protein bridge through which chemical signaling molecules can pass. Second, chemical reactions inside the cell can be triggered by changing the concentration of bromine by a certain amount. These self-contained systems act in the same way as neurons in the human brain.

"I think this project stands a real chance of bringing chemical computing from the concept stage to a practical demonstration of a functional prototype," Zauner says.

From BBC News
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