Created self-sustaining and intelligent electronic microsystem – behaves like an autonomous organism

This illustration captures the essence of a newly developed electronic microsystem. Credits: UMass Amherst

A research team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has created an electronic microsystem that can intelligently respond to information input without the need for external energy input, such as self-autonomous organisms. Microsystems consist of a new type of electronics that can process ultra-low electronic signals and incorporate new devices that can generate electricity “from thin air” from the surrounding environment.

The groundbreaking study was published in the journal on June 7, 2021. Nature Communications..

Jun Yao, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering, led the study with longtime collaborator Derek R. Lovry, a special professor of microbiology.

Both key components of the microsystem are made from protein nanowires, which are “green” electronic materials that are reproducibly produced by microorganisms without producing “e-waste.” This study shows the potential of future green electronics made from sustainable biomaterials that easily interact with the human body and diverse environments.

According to the US Army Combat Capability Development Command Army Institute, which is funding the research, this groundbreaking project is creating a “self-sustaining intelligent microsystem.”

The lead author is Tianda Fu, a graduate student of the Yao Group. “This is an exciting start to explore the feasibility of incorporating” living “features into electronics. I’m looking forward to a more advanced version, “Fu said.

This project represents the continued evolution of recent research by the team. Earlier, the research team discovered that protein nanowire-based air generators (or “Air-Gen”) could be used to generate electricity from the ambient / humidity. It is a device that continuously produces power in almost every environment on the planet. The invention of Air-Gen Nature In 2020..

Yao Laboratory in 2020 Report in Nature Communications It shows that protein nanowires can be used to build electronic devices called memristors that can mimic brain calculations and process ultra-low electrical signals that match the amplitude of biological signals.

“Now we’re connecting the two together,” Yao said of the creation. “We use power from Air-Gen to use sensors and circuits made up of protein nanowire memristors. Electronic microsystems are now able to derive energy from the environment and support sensing and computation without the need for external energy sources (such as batteries). It has full energy self-sufficiency and intelligence, as well as its autonomy. “

The system is also made from environmentally friendly biomaterials, which are protein nanowires taken from bacteria. Yao and Lovley developed Air-Gen from the microorganism Geobacter discovered by Lovley many years ago and used it to create electricity from the moisture in the air and later build a memristor that could mimic human intelligence. did.

“That is, both in terms of function and material, we are making electronic systems more bio-like, or bio-like,” says Yao.

“This study shows that we can build a self-sustaining intelligent microsystem,” said Alvena Ivanisevic, Biotronics Program Manager, Army Research Institute, US Army Combat Capability Development Command. “The UMass team has demonstrated the use of artificial neurons in calculations. It is particularly exciting that protein nanowire memristors are stable in an aquatic environment and suitable for further functionalization. Additional functionalization is stable. Not only does it promise to improve sex, but it also promises to expand its usefulness for new communication methods that are important to sensors and the Army. ”

See: “Self-sustained green neuromorphic interfaces”, Tianda Fu, Xiaomen Ryu, Shuai Fu, Trevor Woodard, Hongyang Gao, Derek R. Lovely, Jun Yao, June 7, 2021 Nature Communications..
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-23744-2 Created self-sustaining and intelligent electronic microsystem – behaves like an autonomous organism

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