Soft memory device opens door new biocompatible electronics

Soft memory device opens door to new biocompatible electronics

1:35 PM, 16th July 2011
Soft memory device opens door to new biocompatible electronics
Researchers have created a memory device with the physical properties of Jell-O, and that functions well in wet environments.

RALEIGH, US: Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a memory device that is soft and functions well in wet environments - opening the door to a new generation of biocompatible electronic devices.

“We’ve created a memory device with the physical properties of Jell-O,” said Dr Michael Dickey, an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

“Our memory device is soft and pliable, and functions extremely well in wet environments - similar to the human brain,” Dickey said.

Prototypes of the device have not yet been optimized to hold significant amounts of memory, but work well in environments that would be hostile to traditional electronics. The devices are made using a liquid alloy of gallium and indium metals set into water-based gels, similar to gels used in biological research.

The device’s ability to function in wet environments and the biocompatibility of the gels, mean that this technology holds promise for interfacing electronics with biological systems - such as cells, enzymes or tissue. “These properties may be used for biological sensors or for medical monitoring,” Dickey said.

The individual components of the “mushy” memory device have two states: one that conducts electricity and one that does not. These two states can be used to represent the 1s and 0s used in binary language. Most conventional electronics use electrons to create these 1s and 0s in computer chips. The mushy memory device uses charged molecules called ions to do the same thing.

The paper, “Towards All-Soft Matter Circuits: Prototypes of Quasi-Liquid Devices with Memristor Characteristics,” was published online July 4 by Advanced Materials. The paper was co-authored by NC State PhD students Hyung-Jun Koo and Ju-Hee So and NC State INVISTA Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Orlin Velev. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy.

NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is part of the university’s College of Engineering.

(C) North Carolina State University News




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