So in my last blog post I waxed lyrical about how the electronics PR world is getting very excited about the potential of graphene. Well thanks to New Scientist (via Electronics Weekly) I’ve now been inspired by the potential of exotic computers built from slime mould.
Apparently researchers at the University of the West of England in Bristol have discovered that the feeding fronds of the slime mould Physarum polycephalum have memristance… an electronic property used to create the data-processing circuits at the heart of all computers.
Memristance had previously been found in things like human sweat glands and blood but this is the first biological material that could actually be used in computers. The researchers maintain that slime mould can be used to perform all the logic functions that conventional computer hardware components can do.
Fascinating stuff. At the moment It seems that the lifespan of the slime mould is one of the barriers, but engineers have a theoretical way around this by using metal nanoparticles i.e. using living slime mould to lay down circuitry before killing it to leave behind wiring.
Slime mould and graphene are just two examples of the recent explosion in using alternative organic and inorganic materials for computing. Other eye-catchers include researchers at the University of Leeds trying to build a hard drive out of bacteria and some academics in Taiwan developing storage devices from the DNA in salmon sperm.
It really does beg the question, whatever next?