'Molecular' Computers? Munich/UD Researchers Report First Glimpse Of Artificial Molecule In Action

JULY 7, 1998-As researchers worldwide scramble to create computers based on molecular and even biological systems, University of Munich and University of Delaware researchers will report the first-ever glimpse of 'artificial molecules' at work--thanks to a new invention for stimulating them the way light excites real molecules.

"We developed a technology for probing artificial molecules that allowed us to see a phenomenon analogous to Rabi oscillations [pronounced RAH-bee], which are actions observed in real molecules," says Rogert H. Blick of the University of Munich, lead author of a paper scheduled to appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal, Physical Review Letters. Blick performed the work at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, in collaboration with Daniel W. van der Weide (say WHY-deh), an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Delaware.

Observations of artificial molecules in motion could help bring researchers one step closer to making the 21st-century dream of biocomputers a reality, says van der Weide, one of 20 scientists in 1997 to win a National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. "Human beings walk around with this incredible bioprocessor in their heads," he notes. "The brain uses very little energy, and yet it has billions of exquisite interconnections. This is why humans and animals can perform complex tasks such as pattern recognition, which is very difficult for traditional, semiconductor-based computers."

Someday, explains van der Weide, technologies based on simple biological systems such as molecules and membranes might help researchers develop, for example, an auxiliary, biologically based processor, capable of recognizing hazardous materials or identifying spending patterns on credit applications.

Such technologies remain elusive for now, Blick emphasizes, but the Munich/UD researchers--including Rolf J.

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
University of Delaware

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