AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: supercomputer

A Computer Powered By ATP?

Could supercomputers be powered by ATP the same molecules that power our cells? And could these computers run faster than normal supercomputers? The Dan Nicolau and his son Dan Nicolau Jr. seem to think so. Although this computer is not yet a reality the father and son duo have been working on a model of this bio-supercomputer for seven years. The original drawing looked like “small worms exploring mazes” according to Dan Nicolau. These chips use short strings of proteins instead of electrons and using ATP to power it all.



Molecule of ATP

You may be wondering why this is a big deal. It is because traditional supercomputers spend so much power cooling themselves down they need their own power plant to function. Since ATP is used in biological organisms it does not heat up as much. This could lead to dramatic decreases in the amount of energy a supercomputer uses. The model is promising but the father and son do not have an estimate on when the supercomputer could become a reality. One possibility according to Dan Nicolau is the integration of the bio supercomputer with a traditional supercomputer.


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A Living Supercomputer is No Longer Science Fiction

“A supercomputer that’s alive? No way, sounds like a bunch of nonsense sci-fi to me!” Well, an international team of researchers at McGill University would beg to differ.

These researchers recently created a supercomputer that uses biological agents as an energy source, rather than electricity. Their new “biocomputer” is also significantly smaller and more energy efficient than the typical supercomputer.

The secret? ATP, or energy used by almost all living, breathing creatures. ATP speeds up the “thinking” process in a computer by allowing it to make parallel computations instead of sequencing only one signal at a time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 7.07.57 PM(Source:

Strings of biological agents arranged in a very miniscule (on the nano scale) but highly organized circuit grid are powered by ATP to move in a controlled fashion to send parallel signals in the computer.

One of the most famous supercomputers, IBM’s Watson, is very large, as depicted by the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 7.06.36 PM(Source:

But this new biocomputer is about the size of a book due to the nano scale of the biological agents. Also due to these agents, there is less heat produced, so the computer uses a lot less energy than an electronic supercomputer (which often needs its own power plant to function).

Of course, further research needs to be done, but this creation of the biocomputer is a huge achievement in the world of artificial intelligence.

Check out this other article regarding the new biocomputer, and these articles on more information about the supercomputers of today, such as Watson and Google’s AlphaGO, and artificial intelligence in general.


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