Engineering researchers from Columbia have, for the first time, harnessed the molecular machinery of living systems to power an integrated circuit (chip) from adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of life.
They achieved this by integrating a conventional solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing ATP-powered ion pumps, opening the door to creating entirely new artificial systems that contain both biological and solid-state components.
The study, led by Ken Shepard, Lau Family Professor of Electrical Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, is published online December 7, 2015 in Nature Communications.
“In combining a biological electronic device with CMOS, we will be able to create new systems not possible with either technology alone,” says Shepard.
“We are excited at the prospect of expanding the palette of active devices that will have new functions, such as harvesting energy from ATP, as was done here, or recognizing specific molecules, giving chips the potential to taste and smell. This was quite a unique new direction for us and it has great potential to give solid-state systems new capabilities with biological components.”
Shepard, whose lab is a leader in the development of engineered solid-state systems interfaced to biological systems, notes that despite its overwhelming success, CMOS solid-state electronics is incapable of replicating certain functions natural to living systems, such as the senses of taste and smell and the use of biochemical energy sources.