Navigation Links
Synthetic cells shed biological insights while delivering battery power
Date:10/22/2009

Trying to understand the complex workings of a biological cell by teasing out the function of every molecule within it is a daunting task. But by making synthetic cells that include just a few chemical processes, researchers can study cellular machinery one manageable piece at a time. A new paper* from researchers at Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes a highly simplified model cell that not only sheds light on the way certain real cells generate electric voltages, but also acts as a tiny battery that could offer a practical alternative to conventional solid-state energy-generating devices.

Each synthetic cell built by NIST engineer David LaVan and his colleagues has a droplet of a water-based solution containing a saltpotassium and chloride ionsenclosed within a wall made of a lipid, a molecule with one end that is attracted to water molecules while the other end repels them. When two of these "cells" come into contact, the water-repelling lipid ends that form their outsides touch, creating a stable double bilayer that separates the two cells' interiors, just as actual cell membranes do.

If the researchers only did that much, nothing interesting would happen, but they also inserted into the bilayer a modified form of a protein, alpha-hemolysin, made by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. These embedded proteins create pores that act as channels for ions, mimicking the pores in a biological cell. "This preferentially allows either positive or negative ions to pass through the bilayer and creates a voltage across it," LaVan says. "We can harness this voltage to generate electric current."

If the solutions in the two cells start with different salt concentrations, then poking thin metal electrodes into the droplets creates a small battery: electrons will flow through a circuit connected to the electrodes, counterbalancing the ion flow through the channels. As this happens, the ion concentrations in the droplets eventually equalize as the system discharges its electric potential.

Building synthetic versions of complex real cellssuch as those that enable an electric eel to zap its preyis far too difficult a task for now, says LaVan. So the researchers instead created this far simpler system whose performance they could understand in terms a handful of basic properties, including the size of the droplets, the concentration of the aqueous solutions, and the number of ion channels in the barrier between the two cells.

A tiny battery with two droplets, each containing just 200 nanoliters of solution, could deliver electricity for almost 10 minutes. A bigger system, with a total volume of almost 11 microliters, lasted more than four hours. In terms of the energy it can deliver for a given volume, the biological battery is only about one-twentieth as effective as a conventional lead-acid battery. But in its ability to convert chemical into electrical energy, the synthetic cell has an efficiency of about 10 per cent, which compares well with solid-state devices that generate electricity from heat, light, or mechanical stressso that synthetic cells may one day take their place in the nanotechnology toolbox.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ben Stein
ben.stein@nist.gov
301-975-3097
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Understanding a cells split personality aids synthetic circuits
2. Nanotechnology and synthetic biology: What does the American public think?
3. Synthetic Biology Project receives 2 National Science Foundation grants
4. July 9-10 symposium on synthetic biology
5. Synthetic catalyst mimics natures hydrogen economy
6. Synthetic chemical offers solution for crops facing drought
7. Using combinatorial libraries to engineer genetic circuits advances synthetic biology
8. Orientation of antenna protein in photosynthetic bacteria described
9. Synthetic biology can help extend anti-malaria drug effectiveness
10. Milestone achieved toward production of malaria treatment using synthetic biology and fermentation
11. Synthetic biology key in the 21st century
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Synthetic cells shed biological insights while delivering battery power
(Date:3/30/2017)... HONG KONG , March 30, 2017 ... developed a system for three-dimensional (3D) fingerprint identification by adopting ground ... technology into a new realm of speed and accuracy for use ... applications at an affordable cost. ... ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 ... Biometrics), Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video ... and Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by ... in 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 ... 2017 and 2022. The base year considered for the ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... Forecast to 2025" report to their offering. ... The Global Biometric Vehicle Access System ... over the next decade to reach approximately $1,580 million by 2025. ... forecasts for all the given segments on global as well as ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... The CRISPR-Cas9 ... overexpression experiments and avoiding the use of exogenous expression plasmids. The simplicity of ... performing systematic gain-of-function studies. , This complement to loss-of-function studies, such as ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Netherlands and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. ... Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) ... MMprofiler™ with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with ... known as MUK nine . The University of ... which is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... (ADC) therapeutics, today confirmed licensing rights that give it exclusive global access ... developed in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). Additionally, an ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM Life Sciences ... the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu Viswanathan and ... presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a revolutionary approach ...
Breaking Biology Technology: