Cyborg cells sense humidity

Living bacteria have been incorporated into an electronic circuit to produce a supersensitive humidity sensor.

“This is essentially a first step towards a biological computer, and would have many applications,” says Steve Ripp, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “If you detect a chemical with a biological device, you not only sense its presence but also its effect on a living system,” he says.

glow2.jpgGlowing colonies of microbes

The bacteria must stay alive during their assimilation so that they do not leak any internal fluids and lose their shape. The bacteria can survive for about two days without nutrients.

“But once the device is made, the device continues to work even after the bacteria die,” adds Ravi Saraf, at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. After a month the zombie bacteria continued to change shape in response to humidity variation, even from beyond the grave.

Saraf speculates that similar devices could one day be made that take greater advantage of living organisms, perhaps even using bacteria’s energy systems to power electrical devices. But “one still needs to demonstrate that an electronic coupling between the biology of the microorganism and a nanodevice is possible,” he adds.

Via Multipolarity Memes Nature.