small plans: nanotechnology for the building industry

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nanowire electrodes: the link between brain and building?

Researchers at New York University and MIT have developed a nanowire electrode that can send and receive signals to the brain, according to Technology Review.

"This is a completely out-of-the box way to think about enabling deep-brain stimulation," says Joseph Pancrazio, program director for neural engineering projects at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Patrick Anquetil, a mechanical engineering postdoctoral fellow at MIT, says they have made polymers that act as pressure sensors, and they see the possibility of using semiconducting polymers as the basis for simple electric switches.

"One thing that really excites us about this is, in principle, there's no reason why, with the same material, you cannot build a whole system in which you have contraction, measurement, sensing, and computation," says Anquetil.

Eventually, nanowire electrodes for sensing and computation could form the interface between brains and buildings. As buildings become smarter, they will become increasingly interactive with their users. Building components will increasingly be able to communicate with their users, raising the question of how much interaction we want.

Will we want to exchange information electronically with our buildings? Computers give us some distance between ourselves and our information, but as nanotechnologies like these advance, we’ll have the power to integrated that information more directly to our brains. Is that a good thing? (photo Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation/Technology Review)

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