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CHIPS Articles: DNA-Biopolymer Photonics Program

DNA-Biopolymer Photonics Program
By U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Torsten Rhode - October-December 2006
New and significant contributions have recently been made to the area of bioengineering. Dr. James G. Grote, from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has been lead ing a team from around the world in investigating a new class of polymer, based on DNA derived from natural byproducts of the fish hatchery industry.

Contributions, like those made by researcher Lt. j.g. Kathleen Mandell, Ph.D., through a partnership with the AFRL and the Office of Naval Research Joint Science and Technology Reserve Project, and with the support of Dr. Frances Ligler, senior scientist for biosensors and biomaterials at the Naval Research Laboratory's Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering (CBMSE), have helped the team develop the new biopolymer into a material which possesses unique optical and electromagnetic properties that no other known polymer has.

These include high and tunable conductivity and ultra low optical and microwave loss. Electronic and electro-optic devices fabricated from this new biopolymer have also demonstrated performance that exceeds the performance of the state-of-the-art devices fabricated from current organic-based materials.

Biopolymers may be the "silicon" of tomorrow's polymers, with a potential impact on a wide spectrum of both electronic and opto electronic devices, while at the same time being inexpensive and easy to process. Where silicon is today's fundamental building block of inorganic electronics and photonics, biopolymers hold promise for tomorrow's fundamental building block for organic electronics and photonics.

This is significant because it demonstrates that biotechnology is not only applicable for genomic sequencing and clinical diagnosis and treatment, but can also have a major impact on nontraditional biotech applications as well, opening up a whole new field for bioengineering.

Lt. j.g. Kathleen Mandell conducting tests on a DNA biopolymer specimen.
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