Researchers have created an electronic microsystem that can intelligently respond to information inputs without any external energy input, much like a self-autonomous living organism. The microsystem is constructed from a novel type of electronics that can process ultralow electronic signals and incorporates a novel device that can generate electricity from the ambient environment. Both of the key components of the microsystem are made from protein nanowires, a “green” electronic material that is renewably produced from microbes without producing e-waste.
The project represents a continuing evolution of recent research by the team. Previously, they discovered that electricity can be generated from the ambient environment/humidity with a protein-nanowire-based Air Generator (Air-Gen), a device that continuously produces electricity in almost all environments found on Earth. They also discovered that the protein nanowires can be used to construct electronic devices called memristors that can mimic brain computation and work with ultralow electrical signals that match the biological signal amplitudes.
The new microsystems incorporate the electricity from Air-Gen to drive sensors and circuits constructed from protein-nanowire memristors. The electronic microsystem gets energy from the environment to support sensing and computation without the need of an external energy source (e.g. battery). It has full energy self-sustainability and intelligence, just like the self-autonomy in a living organism.
The system is also made from environmentally friendly biomaterial — protein nanowires harvested from bacteria. The Air-Gen was developed from the microbe Geobacter, which was then utilized to create electricity from humidity in the air and later to build memristors capable of mimicking human intelligence.