Toward robust integrated circuits: The embryonics approach

Daniel Mange, Moshe Sipper, André Stauffer, Gianluca Tempesti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


The growth, and operation of all living beings arc directed by the interpretation, in each of their cells, of a chemical program, the DNA string or genome This process is the source of inspiration for the Emhryonics (embryonic electronics) project, w hose final objective is the design of highly robust integrated circuits, endowed with properties usualh associated with the living world: self-repair (cicatrization) and self-replication. The Emhryonics architecture is based onfour hierarchical levels of organization. I )Tlie basic primitive of our system is the molecule, a multiplexer-based element of a novel programmable circuit. 2) A finite set of molecules makes up a ceil, essentially a small processor with an associated memory. 3) A finite set of celts makes up an organism, an application-specific multiprocessor system. 4) The organism can itself replicate, giving rise to a population of identical organisms. We begin by describing in detail the implementation of an artificial eell characterized by a fixed architecture, showing that muincelhilar arrays can realize a variety of différera organisms, all capable of self-replication and self-repair. In order to allow for a wide range of applications, we then introduce a flexible architecture, realized using a new type of fine-grained field-programmable gale array whose basic element, our molecule, is essentially a programmable multiplexer. We describe the implementation of such a molecule, with built-in self-test, and illustrate its use in realizing two applications: a modulo-4 reversible counter (a unicellular organism) and a timer (a complex muiticellular organism). Last, we describe our ongoing research efforts to meet three challenges: a scientific challenge, that of implementing the original specifications formulated by John von Neumann for the conception of a self-replicating automaton; a technical challenge, that of realizing very robust integrated circuits capable of self-repair and self-replication: and a biological challenge, that of attempting to show that the microscopic architectures of artificial and natural organisms, i.e., their genomes, share common properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-540
Number of pages25
JournalProceedings of the IEEE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Built-in self-test
  • Embryonic electronics
  • Field-programmable gale arrays (fpga's)
  • Multiplexer-based fpga's
  • Self-replicating fpga's
  • Selfrepairing fpga's

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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