Fusion of Nanocircuits, Bio-membranes Creates New Hybrid Technology

August 27, 2009
A team of researchers combined biological and electronic components to create this bio-nanocircuit consisting of protein molecules in lavender inserted into a lipid membrane surrounding a silicon wire only 30 nanometers in diameter in gray. (Scott Dougherty/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

(PhysOrg.com) -- A hybrid of silicon nanocircuits and biological components that mimics some of the processes that control the passage of molecules into and out of cells has been created by a team of scientists from UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Berkeley.

The lipid-coated nanocircuits could lead to the development of new classes of bio-sensing tools and biological applications, such as comprehensive blood-chemistry tests that fit on the point of a needle or screening tools for the development of new drugs.

“This is an example of a marriage between integrated circuit technology and biotechnology,” said Pieter Stroeve, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UC Davis and one of three lead scientists on the project. “The technology of both can be mass produced, so in theory, their integration can also be mass produced.”

A paper describing the research was posted Aug. 10 in the early online edition of and published in the journal’s Aug. 18 issue.

While modern communications devices rely on electric fields and currents to carry the flow of information, biological systems are much more complex. Their use of membrane receptors, channels and pumps to control chemical signals within and between cells is unmatched by even the most powerful computers. Because these complex operations have the potential for enhancing technological systems, scientists have been trying to develop techniques to blend the systems together.

An added advantage of such a fusion is its potential for miniaturization. “If you want to go to the nanoscale of circuit technology, some of the components need to be so small that they are either very difficult to produce, or they may fail,” Stroeve said. “On the other hand, many biological components have the tendency to self-assemble. And that’s what we built our work on.”

To create their hybrid system, Stroeve and lead scientist Aleksandr Noy, a chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Costas Grigoropoulos, a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, turned to lipid bilayer membranes: the thin films that surround cells, acting as gatekeepers for molecules passing into and out of the cell.

Using a technique they had previously developed, the team immersed nano-scale transistors made of silicon wire into a suspension of lipid molecules in water. Attracted to the negatively charged nanowire surfaces, the lipids accumulated onto them, forming a double layer that served to insulate the wires’ electrical properties as well as shield them from the surrounding water.

The team fused proteins from bacteria called Gramicidin A and Alemethicin into the lipid bilayers. In living cells these proteins serve as channels for molecules crossing the membrane.

By creating a voltage difference across the membrane, the researchers found that they could open and close the protein channels.

“This is much the same thing that happens in a cell,” Stroeve explained. “Now that we can open and close these channels, we can, in effect, regulate our system’s ability to sense chemicals in its environment.”

The study’s two lead authors — Julio Martinez and Nipun Misra — were graduate students when they did the work. Martinez worked with Stroeve at UC Davis and Misra was a student at UC Berkeley. Other contributors to the study were Shie-Chieh Huang, at UCLA, and Yinmin Wang, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Martinez, Misra and Huang also held Student Employee Graduate Research Fellowship positions at the national laboratory when they did the work.

Provided by UC Davis (news : web)

Explore further: Nanoelectronic transistor combined with biological machine could lead to better electronics

Related Stories

Nanomaterials to Mimic Cells

August 23, 2005

Mimicking a real living cell by combining artificial membranes and nanomaterials in one construction is the aim of a new research grant at UC Davis. The Nanoscale Integrated Research Team grant, funded by the National Science ...

Solar energy technology licensed

January 16, 2008

Making solar energy cheaper and more efficient is the aim of a new licensing deal between the University of California, Davis, and Q1 NanoSystems. The university and the company, based in West Sacramento, Calif., have agreed ...

Supercomputer Study of Water

February 27, 2006

Familiar as it is, there's a lot we don't know about water -- such as the structure taken up by liquid water molecules. With a grant of time on one of the fastest computers in the U.S., researchers at UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore ...

New, unique microscope for nanotech

December 9, 2005

UC Davis researchers in nanotechnology, chemistry and biology now have access to one of the most advanced microscopes of its type in the world. The new Spectral Imaging Facility, opened this fall, is a combination of an atomic ...

Recommended for you

Chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam

June 21, 2017

Nanotechnologists from Rice University and China's Tianjin University have used 3-D laser printing to fabricate centimeter-sized objects of atomically thin graphene.

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

June 21, 2017

Versatile, light-weight materials that are both strong and resilient are crucial for the development of flexible electronics, such as bendable tablets and wearable sensors. Aerogels are good candidates for such applications, ...

Neuron transistor behaves like a brain neuron

June 20, 2017

(Phys.org)—Researchers have built a new type of "neuron transistor"—a transistor that behaves like a neuron in a living brain. These devices could form the building blocks of neuromorphic hardware that may offer unprecedented ...

Sugar-coated nanomaterial excels at promoting bone growth

June 19, 2017

There hasn't been a gold standard for how orthopaedic spine surgeons promote new bone growth in patients, but now Northwestern University scientists have designed a bioactive nanomaterial that is so good at stimulating bone ...

3-in-1 device offers alternative to Moore's law

June 14, 2017

In the semiconductor industry, there is currently one main strategy for improving the speed and efficiency of devices: scale down the device dimensions in order to fit more transistors onto a computer chip, in accordance ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 28, 2009
So the door to my room is a "hybrid technology" because it combines wood with metal hinges and a knob. Star Trek, here we come!
not rated yet Aug 28, 2009
RE: New technology for "memory-mechanism" research!?

As I commented on this technology elsewhere before here: http://www.nature...-comment "Nanowires get biological impulses -- RE: Primitive nanoscopic devices!?" (NatureNewsUK; August 11), I thought perhaps, someday, more relevant nanoscopic devices could be further developed and/or modified from this "membrane" methodology, so as to be able to elucidate the (memory-related) phenomenon of "phosphene" that is readily experienced and expressed by our cerebral cortex (or brain): a theory of memory modulation (or consciousness) mechanisms, that is dubbed "memophorescenicity" in my seminal book "Gods, Genes, Conscience" (URL link below; and please see Chapter 15: The Universal Theory of Mind; especially, section 15.4, Memory Modulation and Recall: A New Hypothesis of Psychic Imagery, Perceptivity, Creativity, and Reflectivity).

Best wishes, Mong 8/28/9usct10:08a; practical science-philosophy critic; author "Decoding Scientism" and "Consciousness & the Subconscious" (works in progress since July 2007), "Gods, Genes, Conscience" (2006: http://www.iunive...95379907 ) and "Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now" (blogging avidly since 2006: http://www2.blogg...50569778 ).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.