Science Technology - Published on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 12:23 Written by Jacob Hugosson
Modern transistors uses electrons to send information, while the human body uses protons and ions to send signals from one part of the body to another. Scientists have now managed to build a proton-based transistor that has potential to integrate future technology with human flesh.
Having electronics inside the human body, and let it communicate or act as a complement is something scientists have been dreaming of for some time. The problem is that the traditional transistor uses electrons, while th body uses protons and ions to pass around information.
"So there's always this issue, a challenge, at the interface – how does an electronic signal translate into an ionic signal, or vice versa?[...]We found a biomaterial that is very good at conducting protons, and allows the potential to interface with living systems," Marco Rolandi, associate professor material science and technology.
In the boday ON and OFF switches are activated by transferring energy biologically through protons, in about the same way a transistor has an ON(1) and OFF(0) mode. The ions open and close channels in the cell membrans for pumping particles in and out of the cell, sometimes to send signals to the brain or do muscle activity.
The new proton transistor would enable monitoring of these processes, and generate proton streams to control these functions in biological hosts - like humans. The unit that was developed here uses largely bio-inspired molecules that can move protons, or put proton streams in an ON and OFF mode. Basically a transistor technology that on the whole looks like a traditional transistor, just that it uses protons instead.
The transistor is built with a modified form of Chitosan, which is simple and cheap to make since it can be made with the shell of shellfish that are otherwise discarded in the food industry. Chitosan works well since it absorbs water, and makes its own hydrogen bonds. These bonds can be used by the protons to skip forward.
The next step will be to develop a transistor that can be used with biological cells, since the current prototype has a silicon base and cannot be used in the human body. The longterm goal is to bring forth biocompatible units that can monitor activities in the human body, and control certain biological processes.