They achieved this by integrating a conventional solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-powered ion pumps.
In biology, ATP transports energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed in the cell. It means that it will be possible to create new artificial systems that contain both biological and solid-state components.
Study leader professor Ken Shepard said that combining a biological electronic device with CMOS means that new systems which were not possible with either technology can be created.
While other groups have harvested energy from living systems, Shepard and his team are exploring how to do this at the molecular level, isolating just the desired function and interfacing this with electronics.
“We don’t need the whole cell. We just grab the component of the cell that’s doing what we want. For this project, we isolated the ATPases because they were the proteins that allowed us to extract energy from ATP,” Shepard said.