The polymer surface, seen as brushes in the image, reacts to an electrical pulse by changing state from capturing to releasing the green biomolecules. The polymer surface first captures the bio molecules (left), and when the electricity is switched on releases them (right). Unlike the bio molecules, the polymer brushes stay attached despite the electrical pulse, and the process can be repeated. (Credit: Gustav Ferrand-Drake del Castillo)

A newly developed material uses electrical signals to capture and release biomolecules. The new and efficient method may have a major impact in the development of biomedicines and could pave the way for the development of electronic pills and drug implants.

The new material is a polymer surface that at an electrical pulse changes state from capturing to releasing biomolecules. This has several possible applications, including use as a tool for the efficient separation of a medicine from the other biomolecules that cells create in the production of biological medicines.

The material also functions in biological fluids with a buffering capacity — in other words, fluids with the ability to counteract changes in the pH value. This property is remarkable since it lays the groundwork for the creation of a new technique for implants and electronic pills that release the medicine into the body via electronic activation.

Another advantage of the new method is that it does not require large amounts of energy. The low power consumption is due to the fact that the depth of the polymer on the surface of the electrode is very thin, on the nanometer scale, which means that the surface reacts immediately to small electrochemical signals