Squishy Memory Device Hints at Cyborg Future
CREDIT: Michael Dickey/North Carolina State University
Making electronics compatible with the squishy wetware of the human body can prove both tricky and uncomfortable. But a new memory device that has the feel of Jell-O may spawn the next wave of biocompatible medical devices or cyborg technologies for humans.
The soft memory device can store electronic data without problems in the wet environment of biological bodies. By contrast, conventional electronics made of rigid materials don't coexist well with liquids; anyone who has spilled coffee or soda on their laptop can attest to that.
"Our memory device is soft and pliable, and functions extremely well in wet environments similar to the human brain," said Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University.
Such a breakthrough could lead to biological sensors or other devices used in medical monitoring, Dickey said. The device uses a liquid alloy made of gallium and indium metals embedded inside water-based gels.
The memory device functions by switching between two states, including one that conducts electricity and one that does not. Those states represent the equivalent of the 1s and 0s used in the binary language of computers and electronic memory.
Early versions can't store large amounts of data memory just yet, but still hint at a future where electronics can merge more easily with cells, enzymes or biological tissue. That may also mean future human cyborgs will look less like the cybernetic Borg of "Star Trek" and more like the sleek, organic Cylons found in "Battlestar Galactica."