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Penn researchers develop biological circuit components, new microscope technique for measuring them
Date:6/8/2011

PHILADELPHIA 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 h
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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