Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report in the current issue of Small that they have genetically designed a new strain of bacteria that spins out extremely thin and highly conductive wires made up solely of non-toxic, natural amino acids.
Researchers led by microbiologist Derek Lovley say the wires, which rival the thinnest wires known to man, are produced from renewable, inexpensive feedstocks and avoid the harsh chemical processes typically used to produce nanoelectronic materials.
Lovley says, “New sources of electronic materials are needed to meet the increasing demand for making smaller, more powerful electronic devices in a sustainable way.”
Ref: Synthetic Biological Protein Nanowires with High Conductivity. Small (13 July 2016) | DOI: 10.1002/smll.201601112
Genetic modification to add tryptophan to PilA, the monomer for the electrically conductive pili of Geobacter sulfurreducens, yields conductive protein filaments 2000-fold more conductive than the wild-type pili while cutting the diameter in half to 1.5 nm.