Certain electronics that integrate with the human body—a smartwatch that samples your sweat, for instance—work by converting the ion-based signals of biological tissue into the electron-based signals used in transistors. But the materials in these devices are often designed to maximize ion uptake while sacrificing electronic performance.
To remedy this, MIT researchers developed a strategy to design these materials, called organic mixed ionic-electronic conductors (OMIECs), that brings their ionic and electronic capabilities into balance.
These optimized OMIECs can even learn and retain these signals in a way that mimics biological neurons, according to Aristide Gumyusenge, Asst. Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “This behavior is key to next-generation biology-inspired electronics and body-machine interfaces, where our artificial components must speak the same language as the natural ones for a seamless integration,” he says.
The technique could be used “to establish a broad library of OMIECs … thus unlocking the current single-material-fits-all bottleneck” that now exists in ionic-electronic devices, Gumyusenge says.
The results of the study have been published in the “Rising Stars” series of the journal Small.