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Here’s What the Next Brain Implant Will Be Made Of

 

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, have created a new type of brain chip made of graphene that could bring futuristic brain implants much closer to reality.

If you haven’t heard of graphene, you aren’t alone. In 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in physics for creating it in the usable form we recognize it in today. But in its purest form, it’s been around for billions of years. It’s basically carbon, one atom thick and stuck together in honeycomb shaped bonds, then stacked. Though extremely simple, it’s also miraculous. It’s the most electrically conductive material known to man. A recent DARPA grant allocated just under $30 million to build next generation transistors from graphene. Money from the private sector has been pouring into the development of graphene batteries as a potential replacement for lithium ion.

Some military-related applications for brain chips include treating PTSD flashbacks or episodes the moment that they occur. Neural activity can clearly—and silently—communicate stress as well as other emotional states. It can speak to how well an individual or a soldier is learning material before that soldier sits down to take a test, thanks to some cutting-edge research performed at Sandia National Labs in 2012. It could even lead the way to much more responsive even “feeling” robotic prosthetic arms and legs. A properly devised brain interface could relay signals as communication, or accomplish other tasks you might read about in a comic book.

 

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