Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Biological circuit' components developed; New microscope technique for measuring them

Date:
June 9, 2011
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
Electrical engineers have long been toying with the idea of designing biological molecules that can be directly integrated into electronic circuits. Researchers have developed a way to form these structures so they can operate in open-air environments, and, more important, have developed a new microscope technique that can measure the electrical properties of these and similar devices.

Electrical engineers have long been toying with the idea of designing biological molecules that can be directly integrated into electronic circuits. University of Pennsylvania researchers have developed a way to form these structures so they can operate in open-air environments, and, more important, have developed a new microscope technique that can measure the electrical properties of these and similar devices.

The research was conducted by Dawn Bonnell, Trustee Chair Professor and director of the Nano/Bio Interface Center, graduate students Kendra Kathan-Galipeau and Maxim Nikiforov and postdoctoral fellow Sanjini Nanayakkara, all of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science. They collaborated with assistant professor Bohdana Discher of the Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and Paul A. O'Brien, a graduate student in Penn's Biotechnology Masters Program.

Their work was published in the journal ACS Nano.

The development involves artificial proteins, bundles of peptide helices with a photoactive molecule inside. These proteins are arranged on electrodes, which are common feature of circuits that transmit electrical charges between metallic and non-metallic elements. When light is shined on the proteins, they convert photons into electrons and pass them to the electrode.

"It's a similar mechanism to what happens when plants absorb light, except in that case the electron is used for some chemistry that creates energy for the plant," Bonnell said. "In this case, we want to use the electron in electrical circuits."

Similar peptide assemblies had been studied in solution before by several groups and had been tested to show that they indeed react to light. But there was no way to quantify their ambient electrical properties, particularly capacitance, the amount of electrical charge the assembly holds.

"It's necessary to understand these kinds of properties in the molecules in order to make devices out of them. We've been studying silicon for 40 years, so we know what happens to electrons there," Bonnell said. "We didn't know what happens to electrons on dry electrodes with these proteins; we didn't even know if they would remain photoactive when attached to an electrode."

Designing circuits and devices with silicon is inherently easier than with proteins. The electrical properties of a large chunk of a single element can be measured and then scaled down, but complex molecules like these proteins cannot be scaled up. Diagnostic systems that could measure their properties with nanometer sensitivity simply did not exist.

The researchers therefore needed to invent both a new way of a measuring these properties and a controlled way of making the photovoltaic proteins that would resemble how they might eventually be incorporated into devices in open-air, everyday environments, rather than swimming in a chemical solution.

To solve the first problem, the team developed a new kind of atomic force microscope technique, known as torsional resonance nanoimpedance microscopy. Atomic force microscopes operate by bringing an extremely narrow silicon tip very close to a surface and measuring how the tip reacts, providing a spatial sensitivity of a few nanometers down to individual atoms.

"What we've done in our version is to use a metallic tip and put an oscillating electric field on it. By seeing how electrons react to the field, we're able to measure more complex interactions and more complex properties, such as capacitance," Bonnell said.

Bohdana Discher's group designed the self-assembling proteins much as they had done before but took the additional step of stamping them onto sheets of graphite electrodes. This manufacturing principle and the ability to measure the resulting devices could have a variety of applications.

"Photovoltaics -- solar cells -- are perhaps the easiest to imagine, but where this work is going in the shorter term is biochemical sensors," Bonnell said.

Instead of reacting to photons, proteins could be designed to produce a charge when in the presence of a certain toxins, either changing color or acting as a circuit element in a human-scale gadget.

This research was supported by the Nano/Bio Interface Center and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kendra Kathan-Galipeau, Sanjini Nanayakkara, Paul A. O’Brian, Maxim Nikiforov, Bohdana M. Discher, Dawn A. Bonnell. Direct Probe of Molecular Polarization inDe NovoProtein–Electrode Interfaces. ACS Nano, 2011; 110603081000090 DOI: 10.1021/nn200887n

Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania. "'Biological circuit' components developed; New microscope technique for measuring them." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608141533.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania. (2011, June 9). 'Biological circuit' components developed; New microscope technique for measuring them. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608141533.htm
University of Pennsylvania. "'Biological circuit' components developed; New microscope technique for measuring them." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110608141533.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Comparing his current crop of drones to early personal computers, DJI founder Frank Wang says the industry is poised for a growth surge - assuming regulators in more markets clear it for takeoff. Jon Gordon reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

AP (July 30, 2014) 3-D printing is a cool technology, but it's not exactly a hands-on way to make things. Enter the 3Doodler: the pen that turns you into the 3-D printer. AP technology writer Peter Svensson takes a closer look. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins