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A discipline in which biotechnology and electronics are joined in at least three areas of research and development: biosensors, molecular electronics, and neuronal interfaces. Some workers in the field include so-called biochips and biocomputers in this area of carbon-based information technology. They suggest that biological molecules might be incorporated into self-structuring bioinformatic systems which display novel information processing and pattern recognition capabilities, but these applications—although technically possible—are speculative.
Of the three disciplines—biosensors, molecular electronics, and neuronal interfaces—the most mature is the burgeoning area of biosensors. The term biosensor is used to describe two sometimes very different classes of analytical devices—those that measure biological analytes and those that exploit biological recognition as part of the sensing mechanism—although it is the latter concept which truly captures the spirit of bioelectronics. Molecular electronics is a term coined to describe the exploitation of biological molecules in the fabrication of electronic materials with novel electronic, optical, or magnetic properties. Finally, and more speculatively, bioelectronics incorporates the development of functional neuronal interfaces which permit contiguity between neural tissue and conventional solid-state and computing technology in order to achieve applications such as aural and visual prostheses, the restoration of movement to the paralyzed, and even expansion of the human faculties of memory and intelligence. The common feature of all of this research activity is the close juxtaposition of biologically active molecules, cells, and tissues with conventional electronic systems for advanced applications in analytical science, electronic materials, device fabrication, and neural prostheses.