Developing Thin Films for Biomolecular Electronics of the Future

Modern electronics is nearing the boundary of its capabilities, which are governed by the fundamental laws of physics.

Albumin protein molecule in the water environment. Image Credit: Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University

Hence, the use of classical materials such as silicon can no longer satisfy the needs of energy efficiency of the devices. At present, it is essential to begin looking for new materials and new principles for the functioning of electronic devices

To find a solution to this issue, scientists from Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) have been designing thin films, which are the elements for biomolecular electronics. They are confident that biological macromolecules like amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids could be potential materials for modern electronics.

The molecules acquire many special properties, for instance, the self-organization potential, which is why they can be arranged into specific structures, for instance, into biomolecular films.

Our scientific group is investigating various properties of the thin films based on the albumin protein. In the course of experiments, we dilute the protein in various concentrations and use the method of isothermal dehydration (water evaporation at a certain temperature and pressure) to form the biomolecular films. Depending on the composition of the initial samples and drying parameters, we obtain different structures inside the films.

Maxim Baranov, Assistant, Higher School of Applied Physics and Space Technologies, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

The researchers used an optical microscope to fix the structures within the dried albumin proteins, while also designing software in Python, which can distinguish and examine images of biomolecular films using a unique mathematical apparatus.

Molecular modeling for resolving this issue was performed at the facilities of the Supercomputer Center “Polytechnic.” The study findings were published in the first quartile journal Symmetry by MDPI.

Semiconductor integrated circuits, which are currently used in electronic devices, have a stationary configuration. In turn, the functioning of proteins is based on dynamics, i.e. a biological system can transform in the process of interaction with other objects. Therefore, the molecules can perfectly repeat the required structure, for example as in integrated circuits.

Maxim Baranov, Assistant, Higher School of Applied Physics and Space Technologies, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

However, we expect a lower number of defects in the biomolecular thin films. We can’t say that the biomolecular platform will completely replace the classic semiconductor devices. Rather, we are talking about its symbiosis. Our scientific group believes that thin films will be introduced not in the mass market of electronics, but rather in single applications,” added Baranov.

The researchers consider that several kinds of proteins can be utilized for additional studies, such as plant proteins. Probably, in the future, it will ease out the making of biomolecular thin films.

At present, it is essential to make a specific set of mathematical parameters for a more precise description of the thin films and their properties. Numerous experiments will be performed before developing a prototype of the element that could be implemented into the next-generation device.

Journal Refere​​​​​​​nce:

Baranov, M., et al. (2021) Analysis of Fractal Structures in Dehydrated Films of Protein Solutions. Symmetry. doi.org/10.3390/sym13010123.

Source: https://english.spbstu.ru/

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