Brussels, 25 Jan 2005
A Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) project has developed new generation prosthetics and artificial limbs that use controlling computer devices.
The MOL SWITCH project has built a single-molecule DNA sequencing device, together with a molecular magnetic switch, which combines a biological motor and a moving magnetic bead. By linking the biological and silicon microelectronics worlds, the partners in the project have been able to move artificial limbs by changing the mechanisms of interface between computers and humans.
'The MOL SWITCH Project is one of the most successful research projects I have been involved with,' says project coordinator Keith Firman from the University of Portsmouth. 'The concept was based on the idea of a simple molecular dynamo - the molecular motor would move a magnetic bead, attached to DNA, past a sensor, which would 'switch' a sensor producing electrons that could switch a silicon device such as a computer. The potential use of such a device might be to activate artificial limbs from existing muscle of an amputee, to fly aircraft under high G-force, or as a generic biosensor - the uses are wide varying.'
The project received 1.97 million euro from the European Commission under the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) scheme within the Information Society Technologies (IST) programme of FP5. It brought together six European partners.
'We have also shown that this motor could be used in a wide range of devices (as a nanoactuator), from a biosensor through to a single-molecule, DNA sequencing device,' added Dr Firman. The potential for such a nanoactuator is a cheap, biodegradable motor that can be used across a wide range of biochips to enable controlled movement of materials.'
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