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Consortium Funds Bio-Semiconductor Component Research

3-D brain wiring illustration

3-D brain wiring illustration (NIH)

Semiconductor Research Corporation in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina is supporting research at six universities on components performing electronic functions, but based on biological models. The $2.25 million Semiconductor Synthetic Biology research studies will be conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Yale, Georgia Tech, Brigham Young, and University of Washington.

Semiconductor Research Corporation is a consortium of companies, industry groups, universities, state governments (New York and Texas), National Science Foundation, and National Institute of Standards and Technology. The organization funds advanced research in semiconductors at universities, supporting the work of both faculty and students. In  2005, the group received the U.S. National Medal of Technology.

The program aims to find synergies between synthetic biology and semiconductors to uncover new properties and designs for integrated circuits, as well as more readily adapt semiconductor technology to biological functions. Steven Hillenius, executive director of Global Research Collaboration, the division funding the initiative, says its projects “will aggressively explore new dimensions for pairing biological activities and semiconductors to benefit society.”

The Semiconductor Synthetic Biology program will fund exploratory research in three areas:

– Cytomorphic-semiconductor circuit design, to find new approaches in biochemical and cellular functions that can be applied to analog and digital design of circuits and system architectures, especially for minimum-energy electronic systems.

– Bio-electric sensors, actuators, and energy sources, to integrate live cells with conventional complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor or CMOS chip technology to form a hybrid bio-semiconductor system offering high signal sensitivity and specificity, but requiring minimal energy.

– Molecular-precision additive fabrication, to adapt DNA as the information content for molecular self-assembly as an alternative to conventional chip fabrication with lithography, leading to improved yields and fewer errors and defects in producing nanoscale components based on DNA.

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