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Nat Mater. 2006 Oct;5(10):787-90. Epub 2006 Sep 3.

Molecular computational elements encode large populations of small objects.

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School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Queen's University, Belfast BT9 5AG, UK.


Since the introduction of molecular computation, experimental molecular computational elements have grown to encompass small-scale integration, arithmetic and games, among others. However, the need for a practical application has been pressing. Here we present molecular computational identification (MCID), a demonstration that molecular logic and computation can be applied to a widely relevant issue. Examples of populations that need encoding in the microscopic world are cells in diagnostics or beads in combinatorial chemistry (tags). Taking advantage of the small size (about 1 nm) and large 'on/off' output ratios of molecular logic gates and using the great variety of logic types, input chemical combinations, switching thresholds and even gate arrays in addition to colours, we produce unique identifiers for members of populations of small polymer beads (about 100 microm) used for synthesis of combinatorial libraries. Many millions of distinguishable tags become available. This method should be extensible to far smaller objects, with the only requirement being a 'wash and watch' protocol. Our focus on converting molecular science into technology concerning analog sensors, turns to digital logic devices in the present work.

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