Researchers unveil first biologically powered 'cyborg' computer chip and say it could be able to taste and smell

Researchers unveil first biologically powered 'cyborg' computer chip and say it could be able to taste and smell

Columbia University developed a biochip with living and nonliving systems
CMOS integrated circuit with an ATP-harvesting biocell for prototype
Performing on a molecular level, able to isolate the desired function


PUBLISHED: 15:27 EST, 7 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:17 EST, 7 December 2015
For the first time, scientist have developed an electronic chip made of both biological and solid-state components.

It could lead to a new generation of 'cyborg' chips blending senses such as taste or smell with traditional electronic components.

They combined solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane made of ATP-powered ion pumps to create a 'biochip'.

For the first time, scientist have developed an electronic chip that is both biological and solid-state components.

This breakthrough study was led by Ken Shepard, Lau Family Professor of Electrical Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University.

'In combining a biological electronic device with CMOS, we will be able to create new systems not possible with either technology alone,' said Shepard.

'We are excited at the prospect of expanding the palette of active devices that will have new functions, such as harvesting energy from ATP, as was done here, or recognizing specific molecules, giving chips the potential to taste and smell.'

'This was quite a unique new direction for us and it has great potential to give solid-state systems new capabilities with biological components.'

Although there has been a breakthrough with these new findings, Shepard said that CMOS solid-state electronics do not have the ability to perform or replicate certain functions of living systems, such as tasting, smelling and the use of biochemical energy sources.

Living systems perform these functions with their own versions of electronics based on lipid membranes and ion channels and pumps, which act as a kind of biological transistor.

Charge is produced in ion form, which carries energy and information, and the ion channels control the flow of ions across cell membranes.

Solid-state systems, such as those in computers and communication devices, use electrons; their electronic signaling and power are controlled by field-effect transistors.

Living systems store energy in potentials across lipid membranes, but in this case they were create through the action of ion pumps.

ATP is used to transport energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed in the cell.

The team packaged a CMOS integrated circuit with an ATP-harvesting 'biocell' to begin building the prototype.

In the presence of ATP, the system pumped ions across the membrane, which produced an electrical potential harvested by the CMOS integrated circuit (IC).

'We made a macroscale version of this system, at the scale of several millimeters, to see if it worked,' Shepard said.

'Our results provide new insight into a generalized circuit model, enabling us to determine the conditions to maximize the efficiency of harnessing chemical energy through the action of these ion pumps. We will now be looking at how to scale the system down.'

By performing this on a molecular level, scientists where able to isolate the desired function and interface this with electronics.

'We don't need the whole cell,' Shepard explains.

'We just grab the component of the cell that's doing what we want.'

'For this project, we isolated the ATPases because they were the proteins that allowed us to extract energy from ATP.'

The ability to build a system that combines the power of solid-state electronics with the capabilities of biological components has great promise.

'You need a bomb-sniffing dog now, but if you can take just the part of the dog that is useful -- the molecules that are doing the sensing -- we wouldn't need the whole animal,' says Shepard. 


Popular posts from this blog

Report: World’s 1st remote brain surgery via 5G network performed in China

BMW traps alleged thief by remotely locking him in car

Visualizing The Power Of The World's Supercomputers