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Manchester scientists reveal new super-fast form of computer

02 Mar 2017

Researchers have shown it is possible to build a new super-fast form of computer that “grows as it computes”

The theoretical properties of such a computing machine, including its exponential boost in speed over electronic and quantum computers, have been well understood for many years – but the Manchester breakthrough demonstrates that it is actually possible to physically create a nondeterministic universal Turing machine (NUTM)using DNA molecules.   

“Imagine a computer is searching a maze and comes to a choice point, one path leading left, the other right,” explained Professor King, from the School of Computer Science. “Electronic computers need to choose which path to follow first.

“But our new computer doesn’t need to choose, for it can replicate itself and follow both paths at the same time, thus finding the answer faster. 

“This ‘magical’ property is possible because the computer’s processors are made of DNA rather than silicon chips. All electronic computers have a fixed number of chips.

“Our computer’s ability to grow as it computes makes it faster than any other form of computer, and enables the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible.

Professor King adds that this new research builds on the pioneering foundations set by Alan Turing, the founder of computer science.

Alan Turing’s greatest achievement was inventing the concept of a universal Turing machine (UTM) - a computer that can be programmed to compute anything any other computer can compute.  Electronic computers are a form of UTM, but no quantum UTM has yet been built.