A second area of research is called cytomorphic-semiconductor circuit design, which applies recent understanding of cell biology to new ultra-low-power microchip architectures. Taking a cue from the extremely energy efficient operation of chemical circuits and information processing techniques in living cells, novel cytomorphic electronics will be created that use new biologically inspired approaches to create much more efficient, mixed-signal, analog/digital circuit designs.
"One of the main goals of this program is to create information processors with energy consumption 100- to 1000-times less than today," Victor Zhimov, director of GRC cross-disciplinary research at SRC, told EE Times.
A third area of research will explore new bio-electric sensors, actuators, and energy sources that integrate biological materials, including re-engineered living cells, onto CMOS chips to create hybrid bio-semiconductors with higher sensitivity and lower-power operation than is possible with electronics alone.
Living cells could be used as the front-ends for bio-electronic sensors that are more sensitive and lower power than electronics alone.
"Our goal, here, is to integrate living cells on a semiconductor chip and let them work together -- the holy grail being to use living cells as computers," says Zhimov. "Cells are already powerful computers, but for their own purposes, our change will be to alter their DNA so they compute for us, as well as act as a bi-directional communications links to external electronics."
So far, SRC is providing all the funding for the SemiSynBio program, but Hillenius said he expects other funding sources, such as the National Science Foundation, to sponsor joint solicitations as the program develops.