Connecting artificial nanotechnology to biological systems is a topic of great interest these days, but the interfaces between electronic, mechanical, and biological systems have always been less than intimate. In late 1990s, MEMs began to bridge the divide between electronics and mechanical systems, and now MEMs are everywhere. Electronic devices have now been scaled to nanometer dimensions, and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are also being explored. Has the scaling of electronic and mechanical devices reached a point where we can begin to bridge the remaining divide between electronic and mechanical systems and living systems?
The human genome project demonstrated that traditional biological analysis could benefit greatly from a system level integration of electronics, optoelectronics, computation, and automation within a single framework. The question now is: Are electronic and mechanical devices becoming small enough, inexpensive enough, sensitive enough, reliable enough, application-rich enough that we can explore the possibility of heterogeneous integration of biology and electronics within a single IC? What do biologists, chemists, and device physicists, and system architects think of the prospects (or limitations) of such integration? Are there features of nanoscale systems and problems in biology and medicine that make this integration worth exploring? There have been recent groundbreaking advances in electronic and MEMs-based sensors responsive to biological molecules. How far have we traveled along in these research directions, and are there other topics that we should be exploring? These questions will be the focus of an Extended Discussion during the 2004-2005 academic year.
This Extended Discussion is a series of seminars in which high-profile speakers present their views on the challenges and opportunities in connecting nano- and biotechnology. It is co-sponsored by the NSF-funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN), and the NASA-funded Institute for Nanoelectronics and Computing (INAC). Our objective is to assess the state of the art, identify research opportunities and issues, and discover opportunities for productive collaborations involving theory and experiment. The talks will be videotaped and posted on www.nanohub.org as a community resource and a vehicle to encourage discussion and debate.