Self-assembling organic wires present sci-fi possibilities

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Self-assembling organic wires present sci-fi possibilities

U.S. scientists have developed water-soluble electronic materials that spontaneously assemble themselves into ‘wires’ much narrower than a human hair.

The electronic materials are derived from carbon-based compounds and could present a lightweight, flexible, easily processed alternative to components such as metal wires or silicon semiconductors.

Researchers expect potential uses of the material to include materials for pacemakers that mimic human tissues and devices that bypass injured spinal cords to restore movement to paralysed limbs.

The self-assembling organic wires were developed by a team of chemists led by John D. Tovar of the John Hopkins University.

“What's exciting about our materials is that they are of size and scale that cells can intimately associate with, meaning that they may have built-in potential for biomedical applications,” Tovar said.

“Can we use these materials to guide electrical current at the nanoscale? Can we use them to regulate cell-to-cell communication as a prelude to re-engineering neural networks or damaged spinal cords?”

“These are the kinds of questions we are looking forward to being able to address and answer in the coming years,” he said in a statement to the media.

The team used the self-assembly principles that underlie the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are the protein deposits often associated with Alzheimer's disease, as a model for their new material.

An article about their work was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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