Chip integrates chemical, logic functions

May 30, 2012

The chemical chip can control the delivery of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This enables chemical control of muscles, which are activated when they come into contact with acetylcholine. (Credit: Linköping University)

An integrated chemical chip that could control and regulate the signal paths of cells in the human body has been developed by Klas Tybrandt, a doctoral student in Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden.

It 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 way that is similar to traditional silicon-based electronics.

An advantage of chemical circuits is that the charge carrier consists of chemical substances with various functions.

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

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 signaling substance 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, which allow for the construction of all logic functions.

Ref.: Klas Tybrandt, Robert Forchheimer, Magnus Berggren, Logic gates based on ion transistors, Nature Communications, 2012, DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS1869