There is news of a development that may change the world, for the better I hope but I also fear its disuse. Chao Zhong and others have made a device that can communicate between conventional electronic devices and biological systems. In place of silicon, it uses a modified form of the polymer that is used in the exoskeletons of insects other invertebrates, hydrated maleic-chitosan. Rather than a flow of electrons, it uses a flow of protons (hydrogen ions). It therefore fits with the nature of biological electrical signals. Such a device could give birth to a whole new branch of medicine.
Here is the abstract:
Chao Zhong, et al., A polysaccharide bioprotonic field-effect transistor, Nature Communications, 2011
In nature, electrical signalling occurs with ions and protons, rather than electrons. Artificial devices that can control and monitor ionic and protonic currents are thus an ideal means for interfacing with biological systems. Here we report the first demonstration of a biopolymer protonic field-effect transistor with proton-transparent PdHx contacts. In maleic-chitosan nanofibres, the flow of protonic current is turned on or off by an electrostatic potential applied to a gate electrode. The protons move along the hydrated maleic–chitosan hydrogen-bond network with a mobility of ~4.9×10−3 cm2 V−1 s−1. This study introduces a new class of biocompatible solid-state devices, which can control and monitor the flow of protonic current. This represents a step towards bionanoprotonics.