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Bioelectronics is a field of research in the convergence of biology and electronics.

Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemical processes, molecular interactions, physiological mechanisms, development and evolution. Despite the complexity of the science, there are certain unifying concepts that consolidate it into a single, coherent field. Biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the creation and extinction of species. Living organisms are open systems that survive by transforming energy and decreasing their local entropy to maintain a stable and vital condition defined as homeostasis.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.



A ribosome is a biological machine that utilizes protein dynamics Protein translation.gif
A ribosome is a biological machine that utilizes protein dynamics

At the first C.E.C. Workshop, in Brussels in November 1991, bioelectronics was defined as 'the use of biological materials and biological architectures for information processing systems and new devices'. Bioelectronics, specifically bio-molecular electronics, were described as 'the research and development of bio-inspired (i.e. self-assembly) inorganic and organic materials and of bio-inspired (i.e. massive parallelism) hardware architectures for the implementation of new information processing systems, sensors and actuators, and for molecular manufacturing down to the atomic scale'. [1] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, defined bioelectronics in a 2009 report as "the discipline resulting from the convergence of biology and electronics". [2] :5

Sources for information about the field include the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) with its Elsevier journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics published since 1990. The journal describes the scope of bioelectronics as seeking to : "... exploit biology in conjunction with electronics in a wider context encompassing, for example, biological fuel cells, bionics and biomaterials for information processing, information storage, electronic components and actuators. A key aspect is the interface between biological materials and micro- and nano-electronics." [3]


The first known study of bioelectronics took place in the 18th century, when scientist Luigi Galvani applied a voltage to a pair of detached frog legs. The legs moved, sparking the genesis of bioelectronics. [4] Electronics technology has been applied to biology and medicine since the pacemaker was invented and with the medical imaging industry. In 2009, a survey of publications using the term in title or abstract suggested that the center of activity was in Europe (43 percent), followed by Asia (23 percent) and the United States (20 percent). [2] :6


Organic bioelectronics is the application of organic electronic material to the field of bioelectronics. Organic materials (i.e. containing carbon) show great promise when it comes to interfacing with biological systems. [5] Current applications focus around neuroscience [6] [7] and infection. [8] [9]

Conducting polymer coatings, an organic electronic material, shows massive improvement in the technology of materials. It was the most sophisticated form of electrical stimulation. It improved the impedance of electrodes in electrical stimulation, resulting in better recordings and reducing "harmful electrochemical side reactions." Organic Electrochemical Transistors (OECT) were invented in 1984 by Mark Wrighton and colleagues, which had the ability to transport ions.This improved signal-to-noise ratio and gives for low measured impedance. The Organic Electronic Ion Pump (OEIP), a device that could be used to target specific body parts and organs to adhere medicine, was created by Magnuss Berggren. [4]

As one of the few materials well established in CMOS technology, titanium nitride (TiN) turned out as exceptionally stable and well suited for electrode applications in medical implants. [10] [11]

Significant Applications

Bioelectronics is used to help improve the lives of people with disabilities and diseases. For example, the glucose monitor is a portable device that allows diabetic patients to control and measure their blood sugar levels. [4] Electrical stimulation used to treat patients with epilepsy, chronic pain, Parkinson's, deafness, and blindness. [12] Magnuss Berggren and colleagues created a variation of his OEIP, the first bioelectronic implant device that was used in a living, free animal for therapeutic reasons. It transmitted electric currents into GABA, an acid. A lack of GABA in the body is a factor in chronic pain. GABA would then be dispersed properly to the damaged nerves, acting as a painkiller. [13] Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is used to activate the Cholinergic Anti-inflammatory Pathway (CAP) in the Vagus Nerve, ending in reduced inflammation in patients with diseases like arthritis. Since patients with depression and epilepsy are more vulnerable to having a closed CAP, VNS can aid them as well. [14]

See also


The improvement of standards and tools to monitor the state of cells at subcellular resolutions is lacking funding and employment. This is a problem because advances in other fields of science are beginning to analyze large cell populations, increasing the need for a device that can monitor cells at such a level of sight. Cells cannot be used in many ways other than their main purpose, like detecting harmful substances. Merging this science with forms of nanotechnology could result in incredibly accurate detection methods. The preserving of human lives like protecting against bioterrorism is the biggest area of work being done in bioelectronics. Governments are starting to demand devices and materials that detect chemical and biological threats. The more the size of the devices decrease, there will be an increase in performance and capabilities. [2]

Related Research Articles

Fluorescent tag

In molecular biology and biotechnology, a fluorescent tag, also known as a fluorescent label or fluorescent probe, is a molecule that is attached chemically to aid in the detection of a biomolecule such as a protein, antibody, or amino acid. Generally, fluorescent tagging, or labeling, uses a reactive derivative of a fluorescent molecule known as a fluorophore. The fluorophore selectively binds to a specific region or functional group on the target molecule and can be attached chemically or biologically. Various labeling techniques such as enzymatic labeling, protein labeling, and genetic labeling are widely utilized. ethidium bromide, fluorescein and green fluorescent protein are common tags. The most commonly labelled molecules are antibodies, proteins, amino acids and peptides which are then used as specific probes for detection of a particular target.

Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering is the use of a combination of cells, engineering and materials methods, and suitable biochemical and physicochemical factors to improve or replace biological tissues. Tissue engineering involves the use of a tissue scaffold for the formation of new viable tissue for a medical purpose. While it was once categorized as a sub-field of biomaterials, having grown in scope and importance it can be considered as a field in its own.

A biosensor is an analytical device, used for the detection of a chemical substance, that combines a biological component with a physicochemical detector. The sensitive biological element, e.g. tissue, microorganisms, organelles, cell receptors, enzymes, antibodies, nucleic acids, etc., is a biologically derived material or biomimetic component that interacts, binds, or recognizes with the analyte under study. The biologically sensitive elements can also be created by biological engineering. The transducer or the detector element, which transforms one signal into another one, works in a physicochemical way: optical, piezoelectric, electrochemical, electrochemiluminescence etc., resulting from the interaction of the analyte with the biological element, to easily measure and quantify. The biosensor reader device with the associated electronics or signal processors that are primarily responsible for the display of the results in a user-friendly way. This sometimes accounts for the most expensive part of the sensor device, however it is possible to generate a user friendly display that includes transducer and sensitive element. The readers are usually custom-designed and manufactured to suit the different working principles of biosensors.

Conductive polymer

Conductive polymers or, more precisely, intrinsically conducting polymers (ICPs) are organic polymers that conduct electricity. Such compounds may have metallic conductivity or can be semiconductors. The biggest advantage of conductive polymers is their processability, mainly by dispersion. Conductive polymers are generally not thermoplastics, i.e., they are not thermoformable. But, like insulating polymers, they are organic materials. They can offer high electrical conductivity but do not show similar mechanical properties to other commercially available polymers. The electrical properties can be fine-tuned using the methods of organic synthesis and by advanced dispersion techniques.

Implant (medicine) medical device manufactured to replace a missing biological structure, support a damaged biological structure, or enhance an existing biological structure

An implant is a medical device manufactured to replace a missing biological structure, support a damaged biological structure, or enhance an existing biological structure. Medical implants are man-made devices, in contrast to a transplant, which is a transplanted biomedical tissue. The surface of implants that contact the body might be made of a biomedical material such as titanium, silicone, or apatite depending on what is the most functional. In some cases implants contain electronics e.g. artificial pacemaker and cochlear implants. Some implants are bioactive, such as subcutaneous drug delivery devices in the form of implantable pills or drug-eluting stents.

Vagus nerve stimulation medical treatment that involves delivering electrical impulses to the vagus nerve.

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a medical treatment that involves delivering electrical impulses to the vagus nerve. It is used as an add-on treatment for certain types of intractable epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression. Frequent side effects include coughing and shortness of breath. Serious side effects may include trouble talking and cardiac arrest.

Bioelectromagnetics, also known as bioelectromagnetism, is the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities. Areas of study include electrical or electromagnetic fields produced by living cells, tissues or organisms, including bioluminescent bacteria; for example, the cell membrane potential and the electric currents that flow in nerves and muscles, as a result of action potentials. Others include animal navigation utilizing the geomagnetic field; the effects of man-made sources of electromagnetic fields like mobile phones; and developing new therapies to treat various conditions. The term can also refer to the ability of living cells, tissues, and organisms to produce electrical fields and the response of cells to electromagnetic fields.

A microbial fuel cell (MFC), or biological fuel cell, is a bio-electrochemical system that drives an electric current by using bacteria and mimicking bacterial interactions found in nature. MFCs can be grouped into two general categories: mediated and unmediated. The first MFCs, demonstrated in the early 20th century, used a mediator: a chemical that transfers electrons from the bacteria in the cell to the anode. Unmediated MFCs emerged in the 1970s; in this type of MFC the bacteria typically have electrochemically active redox proteins such as cytochromes on their outer membrane that can transfer electrons directly to the anode. In the 21st century MFCs started to find a commercial use in wastewater treatment.

Dual-polarization interferometry (DPI) is an analytical technique that probes molecular layers adsorbed to the surface of a waveguide using the evanescent wave of a laser beam. It is used to measure the conformational change in proteins, or other biomolecules, as they function.


A biomaterial is any substance that has been engineered to interact with biological systems for a medical purpose - either a therapeutic or a diagnostic one. As a science, biomaterials is about fifty years old. The study of biomaterials is called biomaterials science or biomaterials engineering. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into the development of new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering and materials science.

A biointerface is the region of contact between a biomolecule, cell, biological tissue or living organism or organic material considered living with another biomaterial or inorganic/organic material. The motivation for biointerface science stems from the urgent need to increase the understanding of interactions between biomolecules and surfaces. The behavior of complex macromolecular systems at materials interfaces are important in the fields of biology, biotechnology, diagnostics, and medicine. Biointerface science is a multidisciplinary field in which (bio)chemists who synthesize novel classes of biomolecules cooperate with scientists who have developed the tools to position biomolecules with molecular precision, scientists who have developed new spectroscopic techniques to interrogate these molecules at the solid-liquid interface, and people who integrate these into functional devices.


Electronic textiles, also known as smart garments, smart clothing, smart textiles, or smart fabrics, are fabrics that enable digital components such as a battery and a light, and electronics to be embedded in them. Smart textiles are fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer. Pailes-Friedman of the Pratt Institute states that "what makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow".

Joseph Wang Professor of Nanoengineering

Joseph Wang is an American researcher and inventor. Wang is Distinguished Professor, SAIC Endowed Chair, and Chair of the Department of Nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego specializing in nanomachines, biosensors, nanobioelectronics, wearable devices, and electrochemistry. He also serves as the Director of the Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California, San Diego.

In 1995, professor Massimo Grattarola of the Biophysics and Electrical Engineering Department (DIBE) at the University of Genoa, in Genoa, Italy, created an undergraduate and graduate program named neurobioengineering. The program was designed to amalgamate anthropomorphic robotics, artificial intelligence, bioelectronics, electrical engineering, molecular biology, physics, and medicine, into a single program with the aim of developing advanced bio-compatible neuro-prosthetic implants for a variety applications.

Bioelectrochemical reactors are a type of bioreactor where bioelectrochemical processes can take place. They are used in bioelectrochemical syntheses, environmental remediation and electrochemical energy conversion. Examples of bioelectrochemical reactors include microbial electrolysis cells, microbial fuel cells and enzymatic biofuel cells and electrolysis cells, microbial electrosynthesis cells, and biobatteries. This bioreactor is divided in two parts: The anode, where the oxidation reaction takes place; And the cathode, where the reduction occurs.

Surface modification of biomaterials with proteins

Biomaterials are materials that are used in contact with biological systems. Biocompatibility and applicability of surface modification with current uses of metallic, polymeric and ceramic biomaterials allow alteration of properties to enhance performance in a biological environment while retaining bulk properties of the desired device.

Interferometric reflectance imaging sensor (IRIS), formerly known as the spectral reflectance imaging biosensor (SRIB), is a system that can be used as a biosensing platform capable of high-throughput multiplexing of protein–protein, protein–DNA, and DNA–DNA interactions without the use of any fluorescent labels. The sensing surface is prepared by robotic spotting of biological probes that are immobilized on functionalized Si/SiO2 substrates. IRIS is capable of quantifying biomolecular mass accumulated on the surface.

A biotransducer is the recognition-transduction component of a biosensor system. It consists of two intimately coupled parts; a bio-recognition layer and a physicochemical transducer, which acting together converts a biochemical signal to an electronic or optical signal. The bio-recognition layer typically contains an enzyme or another binding protein such as antibody. However, oligonucleotide sequences, sub-cellular fragments such as organelles and receptor carrying fragments, single whole cells, small numbers of cells on synthetic scaffolds, or thin slices of animal or plant tissues, may also comprise the bio-recognition layer. It gives the biosensor selectivity and specificity. The physicochemical transducer is typically in intimate and controlled contact with the recognition layer. As a result of the presence and biochemical action of the analyte, a physico-chemical change is produced within the biorecognition layer that is measured by the physicochemical transducer producing a signal that is proportionate to the concentration of the analyte. The physicochemical transducer may be electrochemical, optical, electronic, gravimetric, pyroelectric or piezoelectric. Based on the type of biotransducer, biosensors can be classified as shown to the right.

The organic electrochemical transistor (OECT) is a transistor in which the drain current is controlled by the injection of ions from an electrolyte into a semiconductor channel. The injection of ions in the channel is controlled through the application of a voltage to the gate electrode. OECTs are being explored for applications in biosensors, bioelectronics and large-area, low-cost electronics.

Róisín Owens is a biochemist and lecturer at the University of Cambridge. She is interested in new engineering technology for biological applications. Her research focuses on organic bioelectronics, developing electroactive materials that can be used between physical transducers and soft biological tissues.


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Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of bioelectronics at Wiktionary