The Army’s looking into putting bacteria into its electronics

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Enlarge / The future of electronics, Army style. (credit: ARL’s Eric Proctor)

If you’re not familiar with the terms “synthetic biology” or “biohybrid systems,” you may want to add them to your vocabulary. If the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and other research institutions are able to follow through on their plans, the technology will be mainstream in a decade.

ARL is betting that engineered living organisms—termed synthetic biology—can be integrated into living and non-living (abiotic) systems to perform material synthesis, enhance human performance, provide environmental sensing, and control autonomous biohybrid devices.

“As synthetic biology has realized new capabilities, we’ve really started looking at how we can engineer organisms to control devices,” Bryn Adams affirms. Dr. Adams is a biotechnology research scientist ARL’s Adelphi, Maryland facility. She recently published an editorial in the Synthetic Biology edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society in which she predicted a future where scientists place engineered DNA into systems including engineered versions of the genes for photosynthetic proteins, which could be introduced into bacteria integrated into electronic devices to power them.

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