Study: DNA Conducts Electricity
Mar. 31, 1999
Strands of DNA might someday be used as wires in computer chips and transistors, a study suggests.
Hans-Werner Fink and Christian Schoenenberger of the University of Basel in Switzerland found that DNA conducts electricity as well as a good semiconductor. A semiconductor carries electricity better than an insulator but not as well as a conductor like copper.
If DNA strands could be made with a switch to turn the current flowing through them on and off, they could be used to build extremely tiny electrical devices, the researchers said.
Fink said he knows of no metallic wires that can be made as small or as regular as DNA strands. A strand is 2 billionths of a meter thick, or one-forty-four-thousandths of the diameter of a medium-size human hair.
DNA strands might even be able to wire themselves together.
Molecules at the end of DNA strands will link themselves to certain other molecules, so it might be possible to create a wiring grid by laying down these target molecules as terminals and letting the DNA strands attach themselves, the researchers said.
They reported their findings in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Gary Schuster, a chemistry professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said he suspects electrons flow through DNA much differently than in a wire. And whether the research will lead to a practical use of DNA as wiring is ``a wide-open question.''