Silicon Chips with Ion Channels, Nerve Cells and Brain

Peter Fromherz

Department of Membrane- and Neurophysics, Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, Am Klopferspitz 18a, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany




Assembling living matter and semiconductors may give rise to devices that combine analog biodynamics and digital electronics for information processing and medical prosthetics. We explore the fundaments of such future hybrid devices and study silicon chips with ion channel molecules, nerve cells and brain tissue. Two directions are followed: On a nanoscopic level we analyze and optimize the interface of electronics and ionics. On a microscopic level we join neuronal networks with microelectronic circuits. In the first area, solid state physics and DNA technology are used to improve the cell-chip interaction; fluorescence methods elucidate the nature of the cell-chip contact. In the second area, small defined nets of snail neurons and tissue slices of rat brain are electronically interfaced to semiconductor chips. The approach relies on an integration of concepts and techniques in neurophysiology, molecular biology, electrochemistry, semiconductor physics and microelectronics.