World’s first biologically powered chip created

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In a major breakthrough, researchers at Columbia Engineering have harnessed the molecular machinery of living systems to power an integrated circuit.

They achieved this by integrating a conventional solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-powered ion pumps.

In living systems, ATP is used to transport energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed in the cell.

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The advance has opened the door to creating new artificial systems that contain both biological and solid-state components.

“In combining a biological electronic device with CMOS, we will be able to create new systems not possible with either technology alone,” said study leader professor Ken Shepard.

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While other groups have harvested energy from living systems, Shepard and his team are exploring how to do this at the molecular level, isolating just the desired function and interfacing this with electronics.

“We don’t need the whole cell. We just grab the component of the cell that’s doing what we want. For this project, we isolated the ATPases because they were the proteins that allowed us to extract energy from ATP,” Shepard said.

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The study was published online in the journal Nature Communications.

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