This special theme section on "Unconventional Computing Paradigms" has been coordinated by Jiri Vala, National University of Ireland Maynooth (Quantum Computing) and Giancarlo Mauri, Università di Milano-Bicocca (Molecular and Cellular Computing).

by Jiri Vala

We are living at the beginning of a quantum revolution which will no doubt have a profound impact on all aspects of our lives. Quantum systems, which were once restricted to academic research, are now becoming a technological reality. This inevitable evolution is particularly well documented in the context of information and communication technologies where the first quantum devices are becoming available commercially.

by Giancarlo Mauri

In 1994, a pioneering experiment by Leonard Adleman showed that DNA could be used to solve mathematical problems by exploiting its capability to store and process information and using molecular biology tools to perform arithmetic or logic operations on the encoded data. Since then, the interest of researchers in the area of (bio-)molecular computing has been growing continuously, taking the discipline well beyond the original idea of using biological molecules as fundamental components of computing devices.

by Joost Slingerland

Future quantum computers may use exotic materials which host entirely new types of physical particle, called anyons. Computations in such Topological Quantum Computers would be done by exchanging the anyons, creating 'quantum knots' in the process. This idea has spawned an international effort encompassing pure mathematicians, theoretical and experimental physicists and material scientists. The first electronic devices which are supposed to detect and manipulate anyons have recently been constructed in two-dimensional electron systems, with promising results.

by Michael Mc Gettrick

We are working on features displayed by a number of new scenarios in Quantum Random Walks (QRW).It is expected that many features of QRWs (eg hitting time, localization) will be useful in developing quantum algorithms. Amongst other topics, we look at "memory effects" in walks, simulating a 2-dimensional walk with a 2-state coin, and quantum fairness in lazy QRWs.

by Harry Buhrman, Serge Fehr and Christian Schaffner

Position-based cryptography offers new cryptographic methods ensuring that certain tasks can only be performed at a particular geographical position. For example, a country could send a message in such a way that it can only be deciphered at the location of its embassy in another country. Using classical communication, such tasks are impossible to perform. At CWI, we investigate whether position-based cryptography can be achieved if players are allowed to use quantum communication.

by Martin Stierle and Christoph Pacher

The design and implementation of mature entanglement based systems as well as developing the software for setting up the largest quantum network in Europe is the hallmark of the Quantum Key Distribution developments at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology

by Marian Gheorghe

Membrane computing is a new unconventional computing model that abstracts from the structure and functionality of the living cell. Developments of this computational paradigm cover both the study of the theoretical basis of the models introduced as well as applications in various fields.

by Giuditta Franco and Vincenzo Manca

A research project at the University of Verona concerns the synthesis of a minimal cell by means of a P system, which is a distributed rewriting system inspired by the structure and function of the biological cell. We aim to define a dynamical system which exhibits a steady metabolic evolution, resulting in self-maintenance and self-reproduction. Metabolic P Systems, shortly called MP systems, represent a specific class of P systems which is particularly promising to model a minimal cell in discrete terms

by Oana Agrigoroaiei, Bogdan Aman and Gabriel Ciobanu

A research group at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași, Romania, affiliated to the Romanian Academy of Sciences, conducts research in the area of membrane computing on topics such as operational semantics of the membrane systems, causality, object-based and rule-based event structures, as well as several aspects of mobile membranes including computability, complexity and links to other existing formalisms.

by Mario de Jesús Pérez Jiménez, Alfonso Ortega de la Puente and José M. Sempere

The Spanish Network on Biomolecular and Biocellular Computing (Redbiocom) is a consortium of seven Spanish research groups whose research activities focus on the bio-inspired approach to Natural Computing. The Network was founded in 2009 and it was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation under the Complementary Action TIN2008-04487-E/TIN.

by Erzsébet Csuhaj-Varjú and György Vaszil

One of the goals of research in bio-inspired computing is to create new and powerful computational paradigms based on the study of the structure and behaviour of living systems. The investigations can be based on different mathematical disciplines. The Theoretical Computer Science Research Group of SZTAKI aims to expand the classic fields of automata and formal languages to explore the limits of syntactical approaches in describing natural systems.

by Thomas Hinze, Christian Bodenstein, Ines Heiland, Stefan Schuster

Exploration of chronobiological systems is emerging as a growing research field within bioinformatics, focusing on various applications in medicine and agriculture. From a systems biology perspective, the question arises as to whether biological control systems for regulation of oscillatory signals utilize similar mechanisms to their technical counterparts. If so, modelling approaches adopted from building blocks can help to identify general components for frequency control in circadian clocks and can provide insight into mechanisms of clock synchronization to external stimuli like the daily rhythm of sunlight and darkness. Within the Research Initiative in Systems Biology funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, we develop new methods to cover temporal aspects of biological information processing employing oscillatory signals.

by Fernando Arroyo, Sandra Gómez and Pedro Marijuán

Within the Natural Computing Group GCN we address two working perspectives: on the one hand, we propose new bioinspired computational models and architectures, and on the other, we propose computational techniques and user friendly tools to support the advancements in synthetic and systems biology. An in-depth reflection on the distinctive nature of biological information is necessary in both directions; our group has actually established several research lines and projects in the “informational” confluence of the two working perspectives.

by Gerd Gruenert, Peter Dittrich and Klaus-Peter Zauner

Following the analogy of biological neurons, the NEUNEU (Artificial Wet Neuronal Networks from Compartmentalized Excitable Chemical Media) project aims at using droplets of a chemical reaction medium to process information. In this EU project, the excitable chemical Belousov-Zhabotinsky medium is packaged into small lipid-coated droplets which form the elementary components of a liquid information processing medium. Droplets communicate through chemical signals and excitation propagates from droplet to droplet. Among the future applications of molecular information processors is their potential for fine grained control of chemical reaction processes.

by Giancarlo Mauri and Ion Petre

In the intracellular and the intercellular environment we observe architectural designs and dynamical interactions that are very different to those in human-designed systems: particles that are partly transported and partly move chaotically; fierce competition for resources; a vital need to respond fast, yet efficiently, to external stimuli; etc. Many details about the system-level motifs responsible for robustness, performance, and efficiency in living cells have been discovered in the last decade within computational systems biology. We are currently working on applying the lessons learned from the robust organization, functioning, and communication strategies of living cells to computing, and on integrating them into the design of a novel computing paradigm.

by Jean-Louis Pazat, Thierry Priol and Cédric Tedeschi

The Internet of Services has emerged as a global computing platform, where a myriad of services and users are interacting autonomously. Being able to compose, coordinate and adapt such services on a large scale constitutes a new challenge in the distributed computing area. Nature-inspired models have recently regained momentum in this context, exhibiting properties that might assist with programming such a platform. Two years ago, at the IRISA/INRIA Rennes Bretagne Atlantique Research Centre, in Brittany, France, the Myriads team started a research activity with the aim of starting the development of the next generation middleware system able to fully leverage such computational capabilities, based on a chemical model.

by Carlos E. Cuesta, J. Santiago Pérez-Sotelo and Sascha Ossowski

Self-Adaptation (ie the ability to react to changes in the environment) is becoming a basic architectural concern for complex computational systems. However, it is very difficult to provide this feature by conventional means. Inspired by the behaviour of biological systems (and stem cells in particular) we define a new approach to provide multi-agent systems with a dynamic structure, effectively transforming them into self-organizing architectures.

by Claudia Di Napoli, Maurizio Giordano and Zsolt Németh

What do chemical reactions and service compositions have in common? Not much at first sight. But if we imagine the composition of services as a self-evolving autonomic process then they show notable similarities to the way chemical reactions occur. Taking reactions as a metaphor, there is an ongoing effort to discover the power of chemical modelling studied within the framework of a service composition problem.

by Martyn Amos and the BACTOCOM consortium

Various natural computing paradigms inspired by biological processes, such as artificial neural networks, genetic algorithms, ant colony algorithms, have proved to be very effective and successful. However, we can go one step further: instead of developing computing systems inspired by biological processes, we can now directly use biological substrates and biological processes to encode, store and manipulate information. Early implementations of bio-computing used DNA as a miniaturised "storage medium", but we go beyond this, to harness the "biological nanotechnology" available inside every living cell.

by Alena Bulyha, Clemens Heitzinger and Norbert J Mauser

We present modelling and simulations of Bio-FETs (Field-Effect-Transistors), a complex multi-scale system where a semiconductor device is coupled to a bio-sensitive layer that detects bio-molecules such as DNA in a liquid. Our mathematical modelling yields qualitative understanding of important properties of Bio-FETs and helps to provide high performance algorithms for predictive simulations.

Next issue: April 2019
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