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Wet computing

‘Wet computing’ sounds completely improbable but this suggestive term may be nothing less than the future of computing. Silicon-based microchips as we know them have physical limits – we can only get so much processing power into tiny chips before heat and interference become a problem. So, wet computing puts bio-chemistry to the task of finding better solutions for future electronics and ICTs – using molecules or living organisms to carry electrical charge and to perform computing functions. For example, bacteria have all the necessary traits for computation – sensing, processing information and the ability to respond and react to changing circumstances. And apparently they can help you with your Sudoku puzzle.

Beautifully evolved computing

At the point where chemistry butts heads with ICT the foundations are being laid for a radical kind of information processing technology inspired by chemical processes in living systems. And ‘chemical computation’ like this would mean more adaptable, massively parallel computing which can respond faster to changing conditions.

The EU-funded Neuneu project is working on harnessing chemical and biological reactions for information processing and architecture which, according to the team, ‘crudely resembles biological neurons’. What works for the brain – the original wet ‘cognitive computer’ – should also work in this emerging field, they conclude. But this ambitious research calls for a broad range of specialists including computer scientists, biophysicists, chemical physcists, biochemists, chemical biologists and electrical engineers.

Biochemical computing imitates what nature does best – adapting and evolving with the environment and circumstances. Wet computing systems can theoretically even make their own decisions on how to deal with processing demands – reassembling, reproducing and repairing as needed.