Home Syracuse University College of Law NYSTAR - New York State Foundation for Science, Technology & Innovation

Smart Biofuel Cell with Switchable/Tunable Power Release Logically Controlled by Biochemical Signal

Schematics of a “smart” biofuel cell with a switchable cathode activated by a biocomputing system

Summary of Current Research
Cutting-edge research is currently being conducted at the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science and NanoBio Laboratory, Clarkson University (Potsdam, NY) to integrate biofuel cells with biocomputing systems. The talented team of postdoctoral researchers and graduate students headed by Prof. Evgeny Katz at Clarkson has designed biofuel cells with a switchable power release controlled by biochemical signals that are logically processed by biomolecular computing systems. The switchable properties of the biofuel cells were based on polymer-modified electrodes, and their activity depends upon the pH value of the surrounding solution. At a certain pH value, the polymer swells to open the electrode surface for electrochemical reactions, while another pH value causes the polymer to shrink, thus closing the electrode interface and inhibiting electrochemical processes on it. The pH changes generated in situ by biocatalytic reactions allowed the reversible activation–inactivation of the bioelectrocatalytic interfaces, thus affecting the activity of the biofuel cell as a whole. Boolean logic operations performed by either enzymes- or immuno-based systems were functionally integrated with the switchable biocatalytic process, thereby allowing logic control over them. Scaling up the complexity of the biocomputing systems to complex multi-component logic networks with a built-in “program” resulted in the control of the bioelectronic systems by multi-signal patterns of biochemical inputs. The studied biofuel cells demonstrated for the first time the possibility to control power release by biochemical signals processed according to the Boolean logic operations “programmed” into the biocomputing systems. Specific pathophysiological conditions, such as injuries, can activate the “programmed” implanted biofuel cell using the produced power for drug release.

Future Developments
The present research paves the way for the future development of implantable biofuel cells that produce on-demand electrical power depending on physiological conditions. This opens opportunities for future implantable bioelectronic devices that will be logically controlled by physiological conditions, including various biomarkers, substrates and immuno-signals. Patients with unstable rapidly changing physiological conditions will receive the automatically adjusted power release from the implanted biofuel cell. The systems designed and the experiments performed demonstrate the concepts and illustrate possible approaches to resolving these issues, highlighting many possible directions for further research. The complexity of the biocomputing system that controls the biofuel cell should be increased to achieve a complex multi-component/multi-functional logic network. This network will provide efficient processing of multi-signal information from the human body to adjust the power release from the implanted biofuel cell accordingly. Further development of sophisticated enzyme-based biocomputing networks will be an important phase in the development of “smart” bioelectronic devices. Scaling up the complexity of the biocomputing system that controls biofuel cell activity will be achieved by networking immuno- and enzyme-based logic gates responding to a large variety of biochemical signals.

Professor Evgeny Katz, Dr. Vera Bocharova, Dr. Jan Halámek
Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science and NanoBio Laboratory
Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699-5810
Fax: (+1) 315-268-6610
E-mail: ekatz@clarkson.edu (Prof. Katz)
E-mail: jhalamek@clarkson.edu (Dr. Halámek)
E-mail: vbocharo@clarkson.edu (Dr. Bocharova)