23 November 2023

Simone Fabiano, senior associate professor at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, has been granted SEK 23 million from the European Research Council to develop a new type of soft electronic device inspired by the human brain.

Man on balkony (Simone Fabiano).Simone Fabiano, senior associate professor at LOE, has been granted a Consolidator grant from the European Research Council, amounting to EUR 2 million. Photo credit Thor Balkhed

In recent years, Simone Fabiano’s research group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, LOE, has successfully engineered artificial neurons and synapses utilising polymers. The next phase is to integrate these components into an artificial network that emulates the computation ability of the brain, with the ultimate goal of creating the next generation intelligent bioelectronic devices. It can be likened to a tiny “extra brain” made from polymers.

“This technology has the potential to serve a myriad of functions, from monitoring physiological parameters such as temperature, pressure, and blood sugar to directly interfacing with the body’s nervous system,” says Simone Fabiano.

He describes this as “in-sensor-computing”, where information is processed within the body itself, eliminating the need for external data processing in the cloud, a departure from current electronic systems.Man in coverall labb gear hold translucent disc infront of face.A sheet of the chemical transistors used for the artificial neurons. Photo credit THOR BALKHED

“With this closed-loop system, we won’t have to send sensitive data over the internet, addressing privacy concerns associated with conventional cloud-based data management and reducing energy consumption,” says Simone Fabiano.

ERC Consolidator grant 

To develop this, he has been granted what is known as a Consolidator grant from the European Research Council, amounting to EUR 2 million, approximately SEK 23 million. The project is called INFER (In-operando growth of organic mixed ionic-electronic conductors for brain-inspired electronics) and will run until the end of 2029.

The artificial neurons and synapses are based on transistors made from polymers capable of transporting ionic and electrical signals essential for functioning within the body. According to Simone Fabiano, these transistors are simple to manufacture, biocompatible, and require very little energy.Man with flowers (Simone Fabiano).The colleagues at LOE congratulated Simone Fabiano with flowers. Photo credit Thor Balkhed

“The human brain is incredibly energy-efficient. Replicating its function with conventional silicon circuit boards would demand a significant amount of energy. In contrast, our brain-inspired soft electronic platform could allow for energy to be derived directly from body heat or small solar cells on the skin or clothing,” says Simone Fabiano.

He does stress, however, that it will probably be a long journey before their bioelectronic devices can reach the market, as many significant challenges must be overcome first.

“I anticipate that this technology will require 15 years to be ready. It will never compete with silicon when it comes to fast calculations. But it is for applications where silicon-based technologies fall short, particularly within the human body.”

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