Sugar has been used in numerous ways over the centuries and now researchers at Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany have used sugar molecules to develop the ''sweetest computer in the world'
Prof. Dr. Alexander Schiller and his two postgraduate students, Martin Elstner and Jorg Axthelm described that the binary logic which makes a conventional computer chip work is based on simple yes/no-decisions. There is either electricity flowing between both poles of an electric conductor or there isn't.
These logic links however can also be realized with the help of chemical substances, as the Jena chemists were able to show. For their 'sugar computer' they use several components: One fluorescent dye and a so-called fluorescence quencher.
If there are both components involved, the colorant can't display its impact and fluorescence signal wont' be seen, said Schiller. But if sugar molecules are involved, the fluorescence quencher reacts with the sugar and thus loses its capability to suppress the fluorescence signal, which makes the dye fluorescent.
Martin Elstner added that they linked the chemical reactions with computer algorithms in our system in order to process complex information. And if a fluorescence signal is registered, the algorithm determines what goes into the reaction vessel next.
It took the sugar computer about 40 minutes, but the result was correct, said Prof. Schiller adding that it wasn't their aim to develop a chemical competition to established computer chips. The chemist rather sees the field of application in medical diagnostics.
The research is published in the science journal 'Angewandte Chemie International Edition'.