You are here : Home > News > Using biological connections for microelectronics

Scientific result | Cytoskeleton

Using biological connections for microelectronics

The miniaturization of electronic components is now reaching its physical limitations. Even if space can be saved by using a three-dimensional assembly solution, manufacturing electrical connections for these new devices is still a technological challenge. A team of biologists and physicists has now devised a system of self-assembled connections, thanks to actin filaments [1]. 

Published on 11 February 2013
The microelectronics industry is facing a physical limitation, and will need to increase the density of integrated components. One solution could be to integrate microelectronics in three dimensions, as current microelectronic circuits are planar. Stacking the components on top of each other is one way to continue making them denser. This raises a new challenge: to connect the components together once they are stacked.

Biologists and physicists from the CEA-iRTSV, the CEA-Leti, the CNRS, the UJF and Inra at Grenoble decided to take advantage of the extraordinary self-assembling capabilities of certain biological molecules, so that these connections can build themselves. Many complex, regular structures in our cells continuously assemble and disassemble. This is particularly the case for the filamentous networks that make up the cell skeleton (cytoskeleton), composed of actin.


a) 3D visualization of two actin column networks of 1.5 (forefront) and 0.8 μm (behind), separated by 5 and 2 μm, respectively. b) 3D visualization of a square array of actin micro-columns with a 0.5 μm mesh. c) Horizontal and vertical slices of a micro-column showing measurements averaged over one dozen structures. d) 3D visualization of a network of polymerized actin from a microstructure representing the CEA logo. Height of micro-columns: 36 ± 3 μm.

The researchers have developed a technique that enables controlling the self-assembly of actin filaments in 3D, between 2 glass plates placed 30 microns apart and microstructured with a laser beam. The researchers then injected a solution containing actin monomers between the two surfaces, which polymerized in response to the geometry of the microstructures. As a result, actin columns could be self-assembled in controlled shapes and sizes. Similarly, the researchers have succeeded in making the columns grow from a surface into hollow cylinders, produced on the other surface, much like male/female electrical connectors. The connections were metallized with gold nanoparticles, allowing an electrical current to pass between the two surfaces.

[1] Protein that comprises the skeleton of living cells and that can regulate and control their form.

Top page