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The world’s first integrated chemical chip


You probably haven’t heard of Klas Tybrandt. He’s a doctoral student in Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden, and has developed the first integrated chemical chip which could one day be used to create the first cyborgs – or man-machine combination, by enabling us to build computer chips that directly interface with the cells in our body.

His breakthrough creates the basis for an entirely new circuit technology based on ions and molecules instead of electrons and holes.

The Organic Electronics research group at Linköping University previously developed ion transistors for transport of both positive and negative ions, as well as biomolecules. Tybrandt has now succeeded in combining both transistor types into complementary circuits, in a similar way to traditional silicon-based electronics.

His research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

They write in their research paper: “Precise control over processing, transport and delivery of ionic and molecular signals is of great importance in numerous fields of life sciences. Integrated circuits based on ion transistors would be one approach to route and dispense complex chemical signal patterns to achieve such control. To date several types of ion transistors have been reported; however, only individual devices have so far been presented and most of them are not functional at physiological salt concentrations.”

An advantage of chemical circuits is that the charge carrier consists of chemical substances with various functions. This means that there are now new opportunities to control and regulate the signal paths of cells in the human body.

Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group, explains: “We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signalling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signalling substances, for example acetylcholine.”

The development of ion transistors, which can control and transport ions and charged biomolecules, was begun three years ago by Tybrandt and Berggren, respectively a doctoral student and professor in Organic Electronics at the Department of Science and Technology at Linköping University. The transistors were then used by researchers at Karolinska Institutet to control the delivery of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to individual cells.

In conjunction with Robert Forchheimer, Professor of Information Coding at LiU, Tybrandt has now taken the next step by developing chemical chips that also contain logic gates, such as NAND gates that allow for the construction of all logical functions.

doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS1869

 Date of upload: 26th Jul 2012


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