Bio‑based communication networks from University of Maryland use bacteria to transmit electrical signals about biological processes.


  • Improved patient health
  • Biocompatible


  • Medical treatment
  • Chronic illness
  • Surgery

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing


  • Bacteria

The Challenge

When a medical emergency occurs, first responders can get to the scene quickly. But sometimes biological processes have faulted or failed far before a first responder is even able to arrive. Many fatalities could be prevented if the individual, or doctor, was alerted of the condition as soon as it occured.

Innovation Details

The communication network is made up of engineered cells that receive information from living tissue inside the body and relay that information to medical practitioners. The device uses redox mediators, which are small molecules that carry out cellular activities by accepting or giving up electrons. Because they can also exchange electrons with electrodes and produce a current, redox mediators can also communicate with electronic devices. For example, this device could be ingested into the body through a pill, where it could detect an infection as soon as it occurs and notify practitioners immediately.

Biomimicry Story

Bacteria use chemicals to communicate with each other and share information, for example about colony number and size. Bacteria pass these messages to each other by releasing different chemicals. They also have sensors on the outside of their cells that allow them to pick up these chemical signals from other bacteria.