For those would-be cyborgs who are squeamish about implanting awkward computer chips into their bodies, a doctoral student at Sweden's Linköping University may have stumbled upon a rather elegant solution. Klas Tybrandt has developed the world's first integrated chemical circuit — a control system that channels neurotransmitters, instead of electric voltages.
Tybrandt, who is studying organic electronics (which is cool in-and-of-itself), combined special transistors he developed into an integrated circuit capable of transmitting positive and negative ions as well as biomolecules.
The advantage of this approach is that instead of controlling electronics, the circuits can carry chemical substances which can be configured to perform a variety of functions. The development will enable cyberneticists to control and regulate the signal paths of cells in the human body. Tybrandt's breakthrough has created the basis for an entirely new circuit technology that's based on ions and molecules rather than electrons and holes.
According to Magnus Berggren, a professor of organic electronics, this bodes well for people whose signalling systems aren't working properly. To overcome the impairment, the system can send out signals to muscle synapses instead. The chemical circuit can work with biological signalling substances such as acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that works in the peripheral and nervous systems.
Looking ahead, Tybrandt, along with Robert Forcheimer, a professor of information coding at LiU, is hoping to develop chemical chips that also contain logic gates, such as NAND gates that will allow for the construction of all logical functions.