WP6 Background

The development of applications of this powerful technology for information processing tasks will involve a dual approach: both breadth first and depth first. The breadth first survey will allow the significance of ECCells to be appreciated as a major future innovation in ICT technology and the depth first analysis including prototype realization of a particular application area will provide a proof of principle and an attractive springboard for multidisciplinary and commercial engagement in the development of other applications. Because achieving the first programmable electronic chemical cells will require a major fraction of the time-period available in the project, the in-depth application prototype proposed to be developed as a first application of the technology cannot yet rely on the completed integration of ECCells. Instead we plan to investigate one of two application scenarios involving partial ECCell functionality. The first is an integrated smart gel network for algorithmic DNA processing. A second alternative ICT application scenario involves the realization of closed loop integrated molecular evolution under programmable control. The first uses of microfluidic systems for molecular evolution were reported by McCaskill in the early 90s. Thereafter special systems supporting spatially resolved molecular evolution were developed . Recently, major proponents of molecular evolution have begun to develop microfluidic systems supporting molecular evolution . The ECCell project, with its integration of amplification and programmable gel separation technology can greatly enhance the programmability of so-called directed evolution processes, allowing programmable selection and feedback of separated molecular information during the evolution process. This is a core application area for ICT, where algorithmic enhancements (cf evolutionary algorithms) and the quality of microscopic feedback control can make a major difference between a marginal application area and a mainstream ICT application domain. 

Electronic Chemical Cells will be a basic unit in future molecular ICT

Electronic chemical cells will solve the basic problems of  decentralized and stable survival and manufacturing of functional information at the noisy microscopic level for immersed (=wet embedded) systems. This wet embedded environment is currently the place where, because of its biological importance, the highest density of information needs to be processed and functionally responded to. Currently, ICT is trying to manage this complexity without resource to similar modules with a massively parallel and reflexive combination of synthetic and information processing capabilities. As swarm intelligence, multiagent systems and other decentral software paradigms increase in effectiveness, the viability of large scale intercommunicating individuals for information processing will continue to increase.  ECCell takes the approach of emulating via FPGA circuitry a significant fraction of the in future purely local information processing necessary to implement such modules : i.e. we give the electronic feedback loops the local  properties it would have it were implemented by the chemical system itself (and make it evolvable via electronic genomes).