Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Harnessing Microbes, One by One, to Build a Better Nanoworld

Abstract:
Bacterial cells used to make tiny bio-electronic circuits

Harnessing Microbes, One by One, to Build a Better Nanoworld

San Diego, CA | March 17, 2005

Taking a new approach to the painstaking assembly of nanometer-sized machines, a team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has successfully used single bacterial cells to make tiny bio-electronic circuits.

The work is important because it has the potential to make building the atomic-scale machines of the nanotechnologist far easier. It also may be the basis for a new class of biological sensors capable of near-instantaneous detection of dangerous biological agents such as anthrax.

The approach, reported here today (March 17, 2005) at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, suggests that microbes can serve as forms for complicated nanoscale structures, perhaps obviating, in part, the need for the tedious and time-consuming construction of devices at the smallest scale.

The work is also scheduled to appear in the April issue of the journal Nano Letters.

"One of the great challenges of nanotechnology remains the assembly of nanoscale objects into more complex systems," says Robert Hamers, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry and the senior author of the new reports. "We think that bacteria and other small biological systems can be used as templates for fabricating even more complex systems."

Toward that end, Hamers and his UW-Madison colleagues Joseph Beck, Lu Shang and Matthew Marcus, have developed a system in which living microbes, notably bacteria, are guided, one at a time, down a channel to a pair of electrodes barely a germ's length apart. Slipping between the electrodes, the microbes, in effect, become electrical "junctions," giving researchers the ability to capture, interrogate and release bacterial cells one by one. Built into a sensor, such a capability would enable real-time detection of dangerous biological agents, including anthrax and other microbial pathogens.

"The results here are significant because while there has been much attention paid to the ability to manipulate nanoscale objects such as nanotubes and nanowires across electrical contacts, for many applications the use of bacterial cells affords a number of potential advantages," Hamers says.

For example, capitalizing on the complex topography of the bacterial cell surface and microbial interactions with antibodies, scientists could potentially construct much more complex nanoscale structures through the natural ability of cells to dock with different kinds of molecules. Such a potential, Hamers argues, would be superior to the painstaking manipulation of individual nanosized components, such as the microscopic wires and tubes that comprise the raw materials of nanotechnology.

"We spend a lot of time making tiny little nanowires and things of that sort, and then we try to direct them in place, but it is very hard," says Hamers. "However, bacteria and other biological systems can be thought of as nature's nanowires that can be easily grown and manipulated."

In the series of experiments underpinning the new Wisconsin work, the group showed that it is possible to capture cells along an electrode and then direct them down a narrow channel that acts as a conveyor. Small gaps in the electrical contacts along the conveyor serve as traps that can hold single bacterial cells while their electrical properties are measured. Once the microbial interrogation is completed, the live cell can be released.

"You can measure and release them at your leisure," explains Beck, the lead author of the Nano Letters paper and a UW-Madison postdoctoral fellow.

He says the chemicals naturally expressed on the surface of the bacterium could be wired in a way that would be the basis for a real-time biological sensor, a device that could be seeded in airports, stadiums, railway stations, skyscrapers, mailrooms and other public areas to sniff for dangerous biological agents that might be used in a bioterror event.

The device could be constructed, according to Beck, utilizing the natural features bacteria and other microbes use to sense their environments. The wired bacterial cells, coupled with modern microelectronics, would have the ability not only to detect dangerous agents (anthrax spores, for example) but they then could sound the alarm and call for help.

"You could even engineer bacteria to have different surface molecules that you could capitalize on," says Beck.

For instance, it may be possible, the Wisconsin scientists say, to attach microscopic gold particles to the shell of the bacterium, making it more like a nanoscale gold wire.

Hamers believes the new work could be the basis for bringing nanotechnology and biology together in unprecedented ways.

Moreover, the ability to routinely and easily capture and analyze individual microbes will have implications for conventional biotechnology as well. For example, chemical modifications to the electrode traps might make it easier for scientists to retrieve specified cells from a complex mixture.

The work by Hamers' group was funded by the National Science Foundation. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that manages UW-Madison intellectual property, has applied for patents for the technology.


###


Writer: Terry Devitt, (608) 262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

NOTE TO EDITORS: MPEG movies are available here

Contact:
Robert J. Hamers
(608) 262-6371
hamers@chem.wisc.edu

Joseph D. Beck
(608) 262-9081
jdbeck@wisc.edu

Copyright © University of Wisconsin-Madison

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

Possible Futures

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Untangling DNA: Researchers filter the entropy out of nanopore measurements December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Creating a new kind of metallic glass December 7th, 2017

Molecular Machines

Going swimmingly: Biotemplates breakthrough paves way for cheaper nanobots: By using bacterial flagella as a template for silica, researchers have demonstrated an easier way to make propulsion systems for nanoscale swimming robots November 30th, 2017

How to draw electricity from the bloodstream: A one-dimensional fluidic nanogenerator with a high power-conversion efficiency September 11th, 2017

First 3-D observation of nanomachines working inside cells: Researchers headed by IRB Barcelona combine genetic engineering, super-resolution microscopy and biocomputation to allow them to see in 3-D the protein machinery inside living cells January 27th, 2017

Micro-bubbles make big impact: Research team develops new ultrasound-powered actuator to develop micro robot November 25th, 2016

Chip Technology

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Leti Integrates Hybrid III-V Silicon Lasers on 200mm Wafers with Standard CMOS Process December 6th, 2017

Leti Breakthroughs Point Way to Significant Improvements in SoC Memories December 6th, 2017

Sensors

Leti to Demo Wristband with Embedded Sensors to Diagnose Sleep Apnea: APNEAband, Which Will Be Demonstrated at CES 2018, Also Monitors Mountain Sickness, Dehydration, Dialysis Treatment Response and Epileptic Seizures December 12th, 2017

Leti Develops World’s First Micro-Coolers for CERN Particle Detectors: Leti Design, Fabrication and Packaging Expertise Extends to Very Large Scientific Instruments December 11th, 2017

Graphene oxide making any material suitable to create biosensors: Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University have developed a new tool for biomedical research focused on single-cell investigation November 27th, 2017

The stacked color sensor: True colors meet minimization November 16th, 2017

Announcements

Leti to Demo Wristband with Embedded Sensors to Diagnose Sleep Apnea: APNEAband, Which Will Be Demonstrated at CES 2018, Also Monitors Mountain Sickness, Dehydration, Dialysis Treatment Response and Epileptic Seizures December 12th, 2017

Leti Develops World’s First Micro-Coolers for CERN Particle Detectors: Leti Design, Fabrication and Packaging Expertise Extends to Very Large Scientific Instruments December 11th, 2017

Untangling DNA: Researchers filter the entropy out of nanopore measurements December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Homeland Security

A dash of gold improves microlasers: The precious metal provides a 'nano' solution for improving disease detection, defense and cybersecurity applications October 9th, 2017

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Nanosensors on the alert for terrorist threats: Scientists interested in the prospects of gas sensors based on binary metal oxide nanocomposites November 5th, 2016

Nanobionic spinach plants can detect explosives: After sensing dangerous chemicals, the carbon-nanotube-enhanced plants send an alert November 2nd, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project