Towards Programming Matter with Chemical Computers
Scalise, Dominic L
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In this work, we briefly outline a paradigm for programming the growth and function of physical materials, using chemical computers implemented with DNA. We review experimental studies that enable physical stimuli, such as light, heat, temperature, electricity, and chemical concentrations to be converted into signals encoded in strands of DNA. We also review studies that enable strands of DNA to control the growth and reconfiguration of a library of different molecules and materials. This literature review suggests that one way to program materials is to use embedded chemical computers to read in environmental information encoded in strands of DNA, perform information processing algorithms, and output strands of DNA as commands to downstream materials. Next, we discuss a theoretical framework for building DNA computers that can repeatedly respond to changing input signals, using a chemical buffering reaction analogous to a battery or power supply. In these theoretical studies we demonstrate how the power supply motif could enable DNA computers to generate spatiotemporal patterns of chemical concentrations that remain stable for indefinitely long periods of time. We then discuss an experimental implementation of the buffered power supply motif. Using minor variations on this simple motif, we generate some stable one- and two-dimensional spatial chemical gradients in vitro, and present temporal circuits that release different chemical signals at different times. Collectively, this work suggests a mechanism for programming elaborate spatiotemporal behavior into synthetic materials, including growth, healing, and replication.