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Porous Silicon Joining Humans To Machines

A new porous version of silicon could be the key to allowing mechanical devices to interact with human tissue, according to initial research into the biocompatibility of the material at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. The material could lead to "bionic" limb replacements and electronic sensing devices for checking body chemistry and potentially viewing images and hearing sounds.

Porous silicon was discovered as scientists attempted to electropolish silicon with an electrolyte containing hydrofluoric acid. The acid left a number of quantum dots in the silicon which trap electrons making it an efficient, luminescent semiconductor. The initial research findings from De Montfort suggest that the material may also be biocompatible. Professor Sue Bayliss from De Montfort says, "The ability to culture mammalian cells directly onto porous silicon, coupled with the material's apparent lack of toxicity, offers exciting possibilities for the future of biologically interfaced sensing".

Should further trials be successful porous silicon could be used to bridge the gap between a mechanical device and human tissue by transmitting the signals and information from a device to the nervous system and back again. Producing porous silicon is a difficult process to control and research is currently underway to find ways of improving this.


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Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
Andrew_Mclaughlin@materials.org.uk
44-0-171-451-7395
Institute of Materials
1-Apr-1999


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