Monday, November 26, 2012

Bacteria to replace the modern hard drive

Guest Post By:  
Author: "Joanna Stevenson studied mechanical engineering in London, and currently works for an energy research and consulting firm. She enjoys writing tech and business articles in her free time. She aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast with the exploratory spirit and witty prose of her favorite author of Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island for the tech world."

It is broadly believed that we are nearing the boundaries of modern hard drive capability.Hard-drive based electronic equipment has been steadily reducing in size. This has been made possible by the miniaturisation of their components. However because of limitations in current manufacturing technology, we are fast approaching the confines of this method. Coupled with increasingly demanding software and applications, hard drive manufacturers are eagerly seeking an alternative to the traditional model.

Surprisingly, bacteria are being looked at as a viable option to replace the micro-electronics of the current hard-drive. The base of the research into this idea is that bacteria can accommodate a far smaller area, whilst performing the same function as current micro-electronics. This will enable laptops, notebooks and other hard- drive based electronics to become even smaller and lighter and ultimately remain competitive in the computing market.

Biocomputing has shown promise following research by a number of teams globally, most notably from the University of Leeds and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.

These new developments are based on the bacterian Magnetos pirillum magneticum. This bacterium has the strange characteristic of “eating” iron. The consumption of this iron is processed by internal proteins,which produce theby-product magnetite. Magnetite is absorbed by the bacteria and is stored inside. Magnetite, as the name might suggest, is magnetic, and is therefore influenced by a magnetic field. A swathe of these bacteria under a certain magnetic field leads to a precisely aligned formation of magnetite, which is critical in hard drive function.

As the size of the bacteriais just 25 nanometres, there is the potential forsignificantly smaller components for future hard drives. It is hoped that each bacteria will hold one bit of information opening up the possibility of 8 terabits per square inch. This research, along with other Biological Nano scale developments are paving the way for advances in biochemical, biomechanical and bio-electronic computers. As promising as this technology sounds, it is still in its infancy and poses some considerable challenges ahead. The manufacturing process of hard drives will need to completely change in order to accommodate a biological organism. And then there are the costs. Due to the early stages of the technology, its manufacturing process is still very expensive. This will limit a commercial release of the technology until cheaper methods are developed. A further concern involves quality control, particularly because of the small scale of the technology.

But these concerns are not stopping researchers in their quest to develop and propagate Biocomputing, as they see the advantages of the technology far outweighing the challenges ahead of it. Since the human brain is the most powerful and complex machine known to man, and is purely biological, they have every right to believe so.

With technology advancing at an exponential rate, it is very likely that we will see a viable form of this technology on the market in the not too distant future.

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