PHILIPPE PLAILLY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PHILIPPE PLAILLY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Neuronal transistor. This chip contains the first two-way communication link to be established between a living nerve cell and a silicon chip. The breakthrough, made by German biophysicist Peter Fromherz in 1995, could pave the way for the development of bionic limbs controlled by thought and supercomputers built from brain cells. Bonded to the surface of the chip by a microscopic junction, and measuring only half a millionth of a centimetre in length, is a leech nerve cell. No electric current flows across the junction. Instead, the chip induces a charge inside the cell, which makes it "fire". A similar mechanism works in the opposite direction.
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