Self-Sustaining, Intelligent, Electronic Microsystems Created – Operate Much Like Self-Autonomous Living Organisms

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This illustration records the essence of the recently established electronic microsystem. Credit: UMass Amherst

A research study group from the University of Massachusetts Amherst has actually produced an electronic microsystem that can wisely react to info inputs with no external energy input, similar to a self-autonomous living organism. The microsystem is built from an unique kind of electronic devices that can process ultralow electronic signals and includes an unique gadget that can produce electrical energy “out of thin air” from the ambient environment.

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

Jun Yao, an assistant teacher in electrical and computer system engineering (ECE) and an accessory teacher in biomedical engineering, led the research study with his long time partner, Derek R. Lovley, a Distinguished Professor in microbiology.

Both of the crucial elements of the microsystem are made from protein nanowires, a “green” electronic product that is renewably produced from microorganisms without producing “e-waste.” The research study declares the capacity of future green electronic devices made from sustainable biomaterials that are more open to connecting with the body and varied environments.

This advancement job is producing a “self-sustained intelligent microsystem,” according to the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, which is moneying the research study.

Tianda Fu, a college student in Yao’s group, is the lead author. “It’s an exciting start to explore the feasibility of incorporating ‘living’ features in electronics. I’m looking forward to further evolved versions,” Fu stated.

The job represents a continuing advancement of current research study by the group. Previously, the research study group found that electrical energy can be produced from the ambient environment/humidity with a protein-nanowire-based Air Generator (or ‘Air-Gen’), a gadget which constantly produces electrical energy in nearly all environments discovered on Earth. The Air-Gen development was reported in Nature in 2020.

Also in 2020, Yao’s laboratory reported in Nature Communications that the protein nanowires can be utilized to build electronic gadgets called memristors that can simulate brain calculation and deal with ultralow electrical signals that match the biological signal amplitudes.

“Now we piece the two together,” Yao stated of the development. “We make microsystems in which the electricity from Air-Gen is used to drive sensors and circuits constructed from protein-nanowire memristors. Now the electronic microsystem can get energy from the environment to support sensing and computation without the need of an external energy source (e.g. battery). It has full energy self-sustainability and intelligence, just like the self-autonomy in a living organism.”

The system is likewise made from eco-friendly biomaterial – protein nanowires collected from germs. Yao and Lovley established the Air-Gen from the microorganism Geobacter, found by Lovley several years back, which was then made use of to develop electrical energy from humidity in the air and later on to construct memristors efficient in simulating human intelligence.

“So, from both function and material,” states Yao, “we are making an electronic system more bio-alike or living-alike.” 

“The work demonstrates that one can fabricate a self-sustained intelligent microsystem,” stated Albena Ivanisevic, the biotronics program supervisor at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory. “The team from UMass has demonstrated the use of artificial neurons in computation. It is particularly exciting that the protein nanowire memristors show stability in aqueous environment and are amenable to further functionalization. Additional functionalization not only promises to increase their stability but also expand their utility for sensor and novel communication modalities of importance to the Army.” 

Reference: “Self-sustained green neuromorphic interfaces” by Tianda Fu, Xiaomeng Liu, Shuai Fu, Trevor Woodard, Hongyan Gao, Derek R. Lovley and Jun Yao, 7 June 2021, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23744-2

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