Scientists have achieved a billion-fold increase in the electrical conductivity of melanin, that could unleash its potential in safe, sustainable bioelectronics.
The dark brown melanin pigment, eumelanin, colors hair and eyes, and protects our skin from sun damage. It has also long been known to conduct electricity, but too little for any useful application – until now.
In a landmark study published in Frontiers in Chemistry, Italian researchers subtly modified the structure of eumelanin by heating it in a vacuum.
“Our process produced a billion-fold increase in the electrical conductivity of eumelanin,” say study senior authors Dr. Alessandro Pezzella of University of Naples Federico II and Dr. Paolo Tassini of Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development. “This makes possible the long-anticipated design of melanin-based electronics, which can be used for implanted devices due to the pigment’s biocompatibility.”
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