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Biological viruses could hold key to super-fast supercomputers

Biological viruses could hold key to super-fast supercomputers
Scientists have come up with a groundbreaking way to make computers even faster by using a virus – and not the kind normally associated with technology.

Scientists from MIT and the Singapore University of Technology and Design used a biological virus, M13 bacteriophage, to genetically engineer a more efficient form of memory. Their findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

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When a computer is moving data from its faster but volatile RAM (Random Access Memory) to its slower but more reliable ROM (Read Only Memory), or permanent storage, the process takes a few milliseconds.

If this system (using two parts) could be replaced by single system storage, known as phase-change memory, the process would be sped up to mere nanoseconds. Phase-change memory is faster than RAM and has even more storage capability than a hard drive.

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However, phase-change memory technology requires a material that can switch between amorphous and crystalline forms. Currently, these binary-type materials can separate when they reach the necessary manufacturing temperature. This makes it difficult to incorporate these materials into computer circuits.

“Our research team has found a way to overcome this major roadblock using tiny wire technology,” SUTD Assistant Prof Desmond Loke said.

The scientists found that M13 bacteriophage could be used to pull the binary-type materials into usable wires at a lower temperature, hence allowing the creation of phase memory.

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