Tech Project

Open Call
In Residency
Residency Outcome
Research on computers based on biomolecular machines looks for creative solutions.
From Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2021
  •   Till Korten (TU Dresden)
    Credits: Till Korten (TU Dresden)
  •   Mercy Lard (Lund University)
    Credits: Mercy Lard (Lund University)
  •   Till Korten (TU Dresden)
    Credits: Till Korten (TU Dresden)

Description of the challenges faced by the Tech Project

The idea of the project is that biomolecular machines, each only a few billionth of a meter (nanometers) in size, can solve problems by moving through a nanofabricated network of channels designed to represent a mathematical algorithm; an approach we termed “network-based biocomputation”. Whenever the biomolecules reach a junction in the network, they either add a number to the sum they are calculating or leave it out. That way, each biomolecule acts as a tiny computer with processor and memory. While an individual biomolecule is much slower than a current computer, they are self-assembling so that they can be used in large numbers, quickly adding up their computing power. Specific challenges are (1) to design error-free junctions, (2) to multiply the number of biomolecules to adapt to the difficulty of the problem, (3) to tag the biomolecules to know which path they have taken through the network.

Brief description of technology

The artist is invited to discuss with the researchers in the project and follow experiments in state-of-the-art nanotechnology laboratories. In order to maximize the interaction of the artist and the project, we propose to start the collaboration during a workshop 12/13 September 2017. This will give a good overview of the research field. After that, the artist is invited to spend a week in each of three partner’s laboratories: 1 week at TU Dresden, Germany where the focus is on fluorescence microscopy of biomolecular motors in nanostructures, 1 week at Fraunhofer ENAS (Chemnitz, Germany) where the focus is on nanofabrication of biocomputation chips, 1 week at Lund University and Linnaeus University (Lund and Kalmar, Sweden); where the focus is the design, nanofabrication and testing of biocomputation chips. The hosting project partners will provide office space, time for the artist to interact with the wider research environment at the respective site and demonstrate live experiments. The artist will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with observing biomolecular machines moving in various different nanostructures, (including imaging of multicolor fluorescence movies) and various techniques of nanofabrication.

What the project is looking to gain from the collaboration and what kind of artist would be suitable

The objective for the collaboration will be to get an outside perspective on our research. We hope to trigger new ideas for our research as well as learn new ways to communicate our research. This will help us to achieve a main goal of our project which is to attract and structure a larger interdisciplinary scientific and economic community to the field of network-based biocomputation. Since most of our research can only be visualized and experienced through some form of microscopy, an artist working with images will likely get the most out of the collaboration. Also, a mechanical/sculpture representation of biomolecules moving through artificial structures is possible. A background in design, and experience with mathematics/computer science or biology would be helpful but is not a requirement.

Resources available to the artist

The partners make available office workspace for the artist, including internet connection. Also, the partners will provide research personnel to perform demonstration experiments together with the artist. Further, the partners provide consumables used during demonstration experiments. For the Bio4Comp project, a good starting point is the workshop “Network-based Biocomputation”, Dresden, Germany, September 12-13, 2017. After that, ca. three weeks at three different partner’s sites will be available for the artistic production. Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide a budget for travel and stay.