Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst have developed a new electronic microsystem that acts like an independent living organism by intelligently responding to data inputs without an external energy supply. The new type of electronics responsible for the microsystem can process ultralow electronic signals and incorporate a device capable of generating electricity from an “empty” surrounding environment.

The study was presented Nature communication June 7.

Protein Nanowires

Jun Yao, who led the research, is an assistant professor of electrical and information technology and a docent in biomedical engineering. He was accompanied by Derek R. Lovely, a respected professor of microbiology.

The microsystem consists of two main components made from protein nanowires, which are a renewable “green” electronic material. It does not produce any “electrical waste” and the system is a blueprint for the green electronics of the future made from sustainable biomaterials.

According to the Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which is responsible for funding the project, it will produce an “independent microsystem.”

Tianda Fu is a graduate student and principal author of Yao Group.

“It’s an exciting start to explore the possibility of incorporating ‘live’ features into electronics. I’m looking forward to new versions,” Fu said.

Previous research

The team has already worked on similar studies and projects, the most recent of which found that electricity can be generated from the environment with a protein-nanowire-based air generator, a device that can generate electricity continuously in almost all countries. environments.

This study was published in 2020 year Nature.

Also in 2020 the team found that protein nanowires can be used to build electronic devices called memristors that can mimic brain counting and interact with ultraviolet signals corresponding to biological signal amplitudes.

“Now we’re combining the two,” Yao said. “We make microsystems that use Air-Gen electricity to drive sensors and circuits built from protein-nanowire memory. Now the electronic microsystem can receive energy from the environment to support identification and calculation without an external energy source (e.g. battery). It has full energy self-resilience and intelligence, just like the independence of a living organism. ”

The system is made of protein nanowires collected from bacteria, which means it is environmentally friendly.

So, both in terms of function and material, we make the electronic system more like biological or similar, ”Yao says.

Albena Ivanisevic is the Biotechnology Program Manager at the Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Military Development Team.

“The work shows that an independent intelligent microsystem can be manufactured,” said Ivanisevic. “The UMass team has demonstrated the use of artificial neurons in computing. Of particular interest is that protein nanowire memristors show stability in an aqueous environment and are still suitable for functionalization. Additional functions promise not only to increase their stability but also to expand their usefulness for sensors and new forms of communication important to the military. “


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