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Synthetic Biology Ramps Semiconductors

10/23/2013 11:00 AM EDT
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R_Colin_Johnson
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Living Electronics
R_Colin_Johnson   10/23/2013 4:36:46 PM
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The era of living electronics would seem to be upon us. Last year the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories genetically engineered a living virus to be piezoelectric enabling self-assembling arrays of them to produce enough electricity to illuminate an LCD display. Now SRC is expanding that concept in a multi-year development effort to use all sorts of synthetic biology to integrate biological materials, know-how and even living organisms into semiconductors. A few years ago this would have been science fiction, but with MIT, Yale, Georgia Tech and the other leading research universities on the task, SRC predicts living electronics within a decade, and many intermediate breakthroughs along the way.

Dr. Bloom
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Re: Living Electronics
Dr. Bloom   10/23/2013 5:17:07 PM
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Time between announcements and market roll out is getting shorter and shorter. Before there is nothing left to invent as some have said centuries ago. I would like to see an initiative that can [back-up] our biological memories in a phase state from all angles of perception.an image that is so precise that a quantum of time would be all that is required to capture our most important 20 terabytes of ourselves.

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Living Electronics
R_Colin_Johnson   10/23/2013 5:22:20 PM
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Not sure what type of "quantum" memory you would need to back-up your brain's life experiences, but SRC is planning on providing the bio-to-electronic interface necessary to do the download :)

krisi
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amazing goals
krisi   10/23/2013 5:09:51 PM
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These bio-semi devices and systems sound extermely ambitious...and somewhat scary ;-)

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: amazing goals
R_Colin_Johnson   10/23/2013 5:15:42 PM
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In know what you mean. When they first briefed me I kept asking them to confirm that they were going to use real living cells! At first, of course, they are just going to copy what cells do, and use their DNA to pattern chips, but eventually they want to build synthetic bio-electronic hybrids--genetically engineered cells designed to living in a micro-fluidic environment on a semiconductor, first to provide a bio-to-external electronic interface for implants and sensors, but eventually to perform biological "computations" all on their own. More than a little scary!

Frank Eory
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Re: amazing goals
Frank Eory   10/23/2013 5:50:38 PM
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Living electronics within a decade is certainly ambitious. If there is any chance at all of meeting that goal, other funding sources had better pony up. $2.25M over 3 years, split between 6 universities? Assuming it's equally divided, that's only $125,000 per year per university. That isn't going to buy a whole lot of research.

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: amazing goals
R_Colin_Johnson   10/23/2013 6:06:12 PM
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@Frank Eory $125,000 per year per university...isn't going to buy a whole lot of research

So true, however, SRC made clear to me that this was just seed funding--basically to get the researchers to prove-the-concept then put together some serious proposals that SRC plans to pitch to NSF and other deep-pocket sources for serious funding of particular projects.

krisi
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Re: amazing goals
krisi   10/23/2013 6:57:37 PM
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Your are right Frank, $125k per research group is not that much to develop a commercially vialable technology...but these are very smart people, it should be enough for some explolatory research

rick merritt
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Re: amazing goals
rick merritt   10/23/2013 7:11:28 PM
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True its not much money compared to the huge potential of this field. Biology and medicine are still early in entering a digital era.

DVoid
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Robotics
DVoid   10/23/2013 5:49:53 PM
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Any word on robotics research with this?  How long before they could have something like an ant's brain inside a robot?--at least for the navigation.

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Robotics
R_Colin_Johnson   10/23/2013 6:03:03 PM
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SRC itself is only interested in devleoping the synthetic biology to create the hybrid bio-semconductors, the technology for which it will then pass along to its member companies, which include IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments, Global Foundries and other chip makers. It will be up to those companies to target applications. IBM for one already has a complete cat's brain in simulation on one of its supercomputers, so doing an ant should be a breeze (he said tongue in cheek :) Seriously, though, robotic navigation with bio-semis will definitely be a goal of those who apply this technology--I'll guess by the end of the decade.

prabhakar_deosthali
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prabhakar_deosthali   10/24/2013 5:03:13 AM
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This research looks like it is leading to the creation of humanoid robots that would have brains made out of this synthesis of semiconductors and the bio-chemistry.

 

wilber_xbox
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wilber_xbox   10/28/2013 1:08:53 PM
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Organic and inorganic materials are so far apart that putting them together will always be a challenge. Most of the inorganic materials including semiconductor are toxic so unless we find a way to get around this problem i do not think there will be much progress.

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