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Silicon-Silk Electronic Implants

Scientists have built thin, flexible electronics on a silk substrate, creating implants that are perfect for implantation in the body. Over time, the silk melts away and the silicon circuits, just 250 nanometers thick, remain and work perfectly.


(Silicon-silk electronic implant)

To make the devices, silicon transistors about one millimeter long and 250 nanometers thick are collected on a stamp and then transferred to the surface of a thin film of silk. The silk holds each device in place, even after the array is implanted in an animal and wetted with saline, causing it to conform to the tissue surface. In a paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the researchers report that these devices can be implanted in animals with no adverse effects. And the performance of the transistors on silk inside the body doesn't suffer.

"Current medical devices are very limited by the fact that the active electronics have to be 'canned,' or isolated from the body, and are on rigid silicon," says Brian Litt, associate professor of neurology and bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Litt, who is working with the silk-silicon group to develop medical applications for the new devices, says they could interact with tissues in new ways. The group is developing silk-silicon LEDs that might act as photonic tattoos that can show blood-sugar readings, as well as arrays of conformable electrodes that might interface with the nervous system.

I think I've read about this idea almost a quarter-century ago. In the 1985 story Stone Lives, Paul Di Filippo wrote about subdermal microchannels:

June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry in the core of Mao/K'ung Fu-Tzu. Following the current craze, she has had a subdermal pattern of micro-channels implanted. The channels are filled with synthetic luciferase, the biochemical responsible for the glow of fireflies...
(Read more about Filippo's subdural microchannels)

Via MIT's Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/4/2009)

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