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Transistor provides link between computers and humans


By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 21 Sep 2011 at 10:32

Computers could be able to communicate with the human body - and even control organs - following the development of a proton-based organic transistor, scientists claim.

According to materials scientists at the University of Washington, the transistor represents a key component for devices that can communicate directly with living things.

Transistors using the new materials, the researchers said, would act as a gateway for messages between living things, which use ions or protons to send signals, and computers and electronics, which use electrons.

“There's always this issue, a challenge, at the interface – how does an electronic signal translate into an ionic signal, or vice versa?" said Marco Rolandi, a University of Washington assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

A proton current can be switched on and off, in a way that's completely analogous to an electronic current in any other field effect transistor

"We have found a biomaterial that is very good at conducting protons, and allows the potential to interface with living systems."

The unlikely material in the transistor is a form of a compound called chitosan, part of a structure that survives from when squids had shells and can be recycled from crab shells.

Computing devices that connect with the human body's processes are being explored for biological sensing and controlling prosthetics but they rely on triggering "on" and "off" switches in the body.

The protons that activate these binary options, among other things, flex muscles and transmit brain signals.

"In our device, large bioinspired molecules can move protons, and a proton current can be switched on and off, in a way that's completely analogous to an electronic current in any other field effect transistor," Rolandi said.

The prototype device is the first step towards a field-effect transistor that could be used in laboratories for cell research within a decade and later used in human beings.

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User comments

Computer controlled humans

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By gary_davies on 21 Sep 2011

So will we have patented biological devices in our bodies? What if a company decides say that one device infringes another or "copies" it. Will those ones be blocked? Makes the plot in the latest Torchwood look simple.

By clickdog on 21 Sep 2011


Scientists have found a way so that computers can teach humans how to think!?

Well we all knew that most couldn't think for themselves. That is why democracy is all about telling someone else, telling the electorate what to think and who to blame when it all goes pear shaped.

The Borg (Star Trek) were only a sci-fi plot but reality always seems to be written by fictional parallels.

I just hope it does not become mandatory to receive implant improvements like it is to have a degree to seem intelligent.

By lenmontieth on 21 Sep 2011

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