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Originally published April 5 2014

Your next computer's CPU may be made of living slime: it's only logical

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) What lies ahead in the future of personal computing technology? One new bit of research might stun you.

Andrew Adamatzky of the University of the West of England, Bristol, and Theresa Schubert of Bauhaus-University Weimar, in Germany, have constructed logical circuits that exploit networks of interconnected slime mold tubes to process information.

"One is more likely to find the slime mold Physarum polycephalum living somewhere dark and damp rather than in a computer science lab. In its 'plasmodium' or vegetative state, the organism spans its environment with a network of tubes that absorb nutrients. The tubes also allow the organism to respond to light and changing environmental conditions that trigger the release of reproductive spores," read a summary of the study published by Elsevier, a leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health and technology professionals.

In earlier research, the scientists demonstrated that such a tube network was capable of absorbing and transporting various colored dyes. They then fed the network nutrients -- like oat flakes -- to attract tube growth and common salt to repel them, so that they could construct a network of a particular structure.

The team then showed how such a system could mix two dyes to make a third color to act as an "output."

Is the future of personal computing biological?

As noted by Elsevier:

Using the dyes with magnetic nanoparticles and tiny fluorescent beads, allowed them to use the slime mold network as a biological "lab-on-a-chip" device. This represents a new way to build microfluidic devices for processing environmental or medical samples on the very small scale for testing and diagnostics, the work suggests. The extension to a much larger network of slime mold tubes could process nanoparticles and carry out sophisticated Boolean logic operations of the kind used by computer circuitry.

Thus far, Adamatzky and Schubert have demonstrated that a slime mold network is capable of carrying out XOR or NOR Boolean operations; chaining together such arrays of logic gates could allow a slime-mold computer to carry out binary computation operations.

"The slime mold based gates are non-electronic, simple and inexpensive, and several gates can be realized simultaneously at the sites where protoplasmic tubes merge," the team concluded.

Could it be that computing technology is about to enter the biological age?

Steward Bland, editor of Materials Today, says it looks promising. In a statement, he noted that while "more traditional electronic materials are here to stay, research such as this is helping to push and blur the boundaries of materials science, computer science and biology, and represents an exciting prospect for the future."


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