(TheEngineer) Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have engineered a quantum material to interact with living brain matter. The material may help in early diagnosis of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and could even unlock science-fiction concepts like downloading the contents of the brain. These are still a long way off, but the team, led by Shriram Ramanathan, believes that it represents an important step towards this goal. Long term, the research may help in early diagnosis of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s,
Ramanathan’s laboratory is trying to create materials that mimic how the brain works. The major difficulty with this is that the materials we use for “thinking” machines are semiconductors, which work through conduction of electrons, whereas the brain uses currents of ions. To bridge the gap between the two modes of conduction, the researchers are investigating quantum materials, whose electrical behaviour cannot be explained by classical physics. The material they are investigating is perovskite nickelate which is used for low-cost photovoltaic cells in solar panels,
The quantum material can receive hydrogen from a slice of brain from an animal model. “This quantum material is about nine times more sensitive to dopamine than methods that we use currently in animal models,” said Alexander Chubykin, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience. “The fact that we didn’t provide power to the material for it to take in hydrogen means that it could bring very low-power electronics with high sensitivity,” Ramanathan added.