Nav: Home

Ultra-small nanoprobes could be a leap forward in human-machine interfaces

July 03, 2019

Machine enhanced humans - or cyborgs as they are known in science fiction - could be one step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to new research from the University of Surrey and Harvard University.

Researchers have conquered the monumental task of manufacturing scalable nanoprobe arrays small enough to record the inner workings of human cardiac cells and primary neurons.

The ability to read electrical activities from cells is the foundation of many biomedical procedures, such as brain activity mapping and neural prosthetics. Developing new tools for intracellular electrophysiology (the electric current running within cells) that push the limits of what is physically possible (spatiotemporal resolution) while reducing invasiveness could provide a deeper understanding of electrogenic cells and their networks in tissues, as well as new directions for human-machine interfaces.

In a paper published by Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and Harvard University detail how they produced an array of the ultra-small U-shaped nanowire field-effect transistor probes for intracellular recording. This incredibly small structure was used to record, with great clarity, the inner activity of primary neurons and other electrogenic cells, and the device has the capacity for multi-channel recordings.

Dr Yunlong Zhao from the ATI at the University of Surrey said: "If our medical professionals are to continue to understand our physical condition better and help us live longer, it is important that we continue to push the boundaries of modern science in order to give them the best possible tools to do their jobs. For this to be possible, an intersection between humans and machines is inevitable.

"Our ultra-small, flexible, nanowire probes could be a very powerful tool as they can measure intracellular signals with amplitudes comparable with those measured with patch clamp techniques; with the advantage of the device being scalable, it causes less discomfort and no fatal damage to the cell (cytosol dilation). Through this work, we found clear evidence for how both size and curvature affect device internalisation and intracellular recording signal."

Professor Charles Lieber from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University said: "This work represents a major step towards tackling the general problem of integrating 'synthesized' nanoscale building blocks into chip and wafer scale arrays, and thereby allowing us to address the long-standing challenge of scalable intracellular recording.

"The beauty of science to many, ourselves included, is having such challenges to drive hypotheses and future work. In the longer term, we see these probe developments adding to our capabilities that ultimately drive advanced high-resolution brain-machine interfaces and perhaps eventually bringing cyborgs to reality."

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI at the University of Surrey, said: "This incredibly exciting and ambitious piece of work illustrates the value of academic collaboration. Along with the possibility of upgrading the tools we use to monitor cells, this work has laid the foundations for machine and human interfaces that could improve lives across the world."

Dr Yunlong Zhao and his team are currently working on novel energy storage devices, electrochemical probing, bioelectronic devices, sensors and 3D soft electronic systems. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoc students with backgrounds in energy storage, electrochemistry, nanofabrication, bioelectronics, tissue engineering are very welcome to contact Dr Zhao to explore the opportunities further.
-end-


University of Surrey

Related Energy Storage Articles:

Ionic channels in carbon electrodes for efficient electrochemical energy storage
Development towards high-performance electrochemical energy storage devices has evoked our effort on novel carbon electrodes, as certain nanocarbons are perceived to own advantages such as high specific surface areas and controllable structure.
Breakthrough enables storage and release of mechanical waves without energy loss
A new discovery by researchers at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY could allow light and sound waves to be stored intact for an indefinite period of time and then direct it toward a desired location on demand.
How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.
Energy storage in the Midwest and beyond: A timely analysis
As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released an update to last year's order on energy storage, MRS Energy & Sustainability today publishes a timely collection of papers that unpack the issue of energy storage in the Midwest and beyond.
Engineered bacteria could be missing link in energy storage
One of the big issues with sustainable energy systems is how to store electricity that's generated from wind, solar and waves.
Need more energy storage? Just hit 'print'
Drexel University researchers have developed a conductive ink made from a special type of material they discovered, called MXene, that was used by the Trinity College researchers to print components for electronic devices.
The shape of things to come: Flexible, foldable supercapacitors for energy storage
A team of researchers from the Plasma Physics Research Centre, Science and Research Branch of Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran, have discovered a way of making paper supercapacitors for electricity storage.
FeCo-selenide -- Next-generation material in energy storage devices?
In a paper in the forthcoming issue of NANO, a team of researchers have fabricated an asymmetric supercapacitor (ASC) based on FeCo-selenide nanosheet arrays as positive electrode and Fe2O3 nanorod arrays as negative electrode.
A breakthrough of monitoring energy storage at work using optical fibers
An optic fiber sensing system developed by researchers in China and Canada can peer inside supercapacitors and batteries to observe their state of charge.
How gold nanoparticles could improve solar energy storage
Star-shaped gold nanoparticles, coated with a semiconductor, can produce hydrogen from water over four times more efficiently than other methods - opening the door to improved storage of solar energy and other advances that could boost renewable energy use and combat climate change, according to Rutgers University-New Brunswick researchers.
More Energy Storage News and Energy Storage Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.