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Lucent Researchers Claim Fish DNA as Replacement for Computer Chip

Aired August 9, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Telecom giant Lucent says it has found a way to use salmon DNA, of all things, to make your computer run much faster.

Strange but true, here's CNN's Fred Katayama in New York with more about all of this.

Fred, what's going on?

FRED KATAYAMA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it's used in determining paternity in paternities lawsuits, investigating crime or cloning and it's the focal point of hyped Human Genome Project. It's DNA, the building blocks of life.

Now, Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs has discovered another use for it as a motorized machine. Researchers there say they can manipulate DNA in such a way that it can someday replace computer chips to make computers that'll be vastly more powerful or faster than they are today; some 1,000 times more powerful.

Now if it all sounds fishy, you're partly right. Lucent researchers took DNA from salmon sperm and had it synthesized with a set of instructions. These DNA are shaped like tweezers with two strands or arms of DNA connected by a hinge. The researcher adds a strand of DNA which serves as a fuel. The strand attaches itself to the handles and draws the arms of the tweezer together, the tweezer shuts. Researchers add another fuel strand, it reacts with the tweezer and this time, the arms close.

Now in other words, the DNA acts like a motor that can be shut off and shut on, just like a computerized chip. Basically what a computerized chip does in processing digital data. Now the difference, the DNA is microscopic in size and that means less energy is required to operate it.

Now Moore's Law, which is named after Intel's co-founder Gordon Moore, stipulates that the number of transistors that could fit on a chip doubles roughly every 18 months, doubling computing power. But there's a limit to how many transistors can be etched onto a sliver of silicon. And many researchers say that limit will be reached in 2010.

Now Lucent researchers say that the current photo-lithographic method that is used to etch circuits on a sliver of silicon, could someday be replaced by their new chemical approach. Now that's because DNA can assemble itself just like a crystal.

By the way, a molecule is a 100 to a 1,000 times smaller than a transistor. So Lucent researchers say that this technology could someday shrink desktop computers down to the size of a pin head. And that means that computers could possibly, someday be embedded in practically everything everywhere from walls right down to our clothing -- Lou.

WATERS: Why didn't I think of that, thanks Fred. Fred Katayama in New York, there.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: I understood every bit of that, thanks, Fred.

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