Virus for speeding computer
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Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Singapore University have devised a new manufacturing technique that will use a virus, albeit a biological one, to speed up modern computers. The research paper titled “Biological-Templating of a Segregating Binary Alloy for Nanowire-Like Phase-Change Materials and Memory” was originally published in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

Researchers Desmond Loke, Griffin Clausen, Jacqueline Ohmura, Tow-Chong Chong, and Angela Belcher have developed a new method to manufacture a type of memory using the virus. This new memory will effectively reduce millisecond delay that modern computers suffer from while transferring and storage of information between RAM and hard drive.

For the uninitiated, Random Access Memory (RAM) is a storage type that is fast, expensive and requires a power supply to retain information; on the other hand, hard drive is slow and non-volatile memory type that stores information permanently.

To resolve this issue, phase-change memory is used which is as fast as RAM and offers more storage capacity than a traditional hard drive. This memory type uses a material that is capable of switching between amorphous and crystalline states.

There are certain caveats associated with using phase-change memory. A binary-type material such as Gallium Antimonide could be used for making improved this memory type.

However, when such a binary-type material is used, power consumption increases and the phase-change memory can undergo material separation when the temperature reaches 620 kelvins (K). This poses a challenge in using a binary-type material in the contemporary integrated circuits as the manufacturing temperature of the modern day circuits is about 670 K.

Researchers have used M13 bacteriophage, a type of biological virus, for making tiny wires. The traditional manufacturing process of tiny wires used in integrated circuits can reach temperature up to 720 K which can cause the separation of binary-type material.

By using M13 bacteriophage in the manufacturing process of tiny wires, limitations of phase-change memory can be overcomed.

Discussing the research, Desmond Loke from the Singapore University of Technology and Design said, “This possibility leads the way to the “elimination of the millisecond storage and transfer delays needed to progress modern computing.”

We hope that this research will soon help computer engineers in developing faster computers that will not waste milliseconds in transferring data from high-speed RAM to nonvolatile hard drive.

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