Sarpeshkar builds the field of cell-inspired electronics

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February 25, 2010

"Cell-inspired electronics, By mimicking cells, MIT researcher designs electronic circuits for ultra-low-power and biomedical applications." --Anne Trafton for the MIT News Office, February 25, 2010. Read more.

Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and principal investigator in the Laboratory of Electronics, RLE, Rahul Sarpeshkar, has completed a book, Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics (Cambridge University Press, 2010), which outlines the deep underlying similarities between chemical reactions that occur in a cell and the flow of current through an analog electronic circuit.

The idea of digging deeper into the parallel lessons of biological systems has been a motivating theme in Sarpeshkar's MIT career as a faculty member in the EECS Department and prior to that with Bell Labs in the department of Biological Computation within its Physics division.

"Circuits are a language for representing and trying to understand almost anything, whether it be networks in biology or cars," Sarpeshkar related to the MIT News Office. "There's a unified way of looking at the biological world through circuits that is very powerful."

Circuit designers already know hundreds of strategies to run analog circuits at low power, amplify signals, and reduce noise, which have helped them design low-power electronics such as mobile phones, mp3 players and laptop computers.

"Here's a field that has devoted 50 years to studying the design of complex systems," says Sarpeshkar, referring to electrical engineering. "We can now start to think of biology in the same way." He hopes that physicists, engineers, biologists and biological engineers will work together to pioneer this new field, which he has dubbed "cytomorphic" (cell-inspired or cell-transforming) electronics.