Biosynthetic Infochemical Communication (iCHEM)

(c) Dr. Linda Kübler

By exploiting recent advances in the understanding of pheromone biosynthesis pathways and how pheromone molecules (a key category of so-called infochemicals) are detected and decoded in the insect nervous system we will develop a new class of technology for infochemical communication.

In a novel approach to information and communication technology (ICT) we will first investigate, design and implement using microreactor technology, the biosynthesis pathways of infochemical production in the moth Spodoptera littoralis. This subsystem we term a "chemoemitter" (a microsystem capable of generating a precise mix of predefined synthesised compounds in programmable ratios of concentration). In parallel we will investigate, design and implement a complementary tuned detector of this volatile chemical mixture based upon principles of molecular detection in the receptor and antennal lobe neurons of the same animal (termed a "chemoreceiver") which is able to recover the ratiometric information deployed in the world. As a combined system this innovative chemoemitter/receiver will be capable of information transmission using chemicals alone and will form the basis of a new technological field for labelling, information transmission and biochemical interfacing.

Chemical messages may be deposited on surfaces or transmitted through gaseous/liquid media. Moreover, by controlling the volatility of the predefined pheromone compounds (by adjusting molecular chain length) it will be possible to transmit time-sensitive and time-registered information. As such we expect our approach and the technologies developed in this project to have long-term implications for automatic identification and data capture (AIDC), product labelling, search and rescue, data storage, unexploded ordinance and mine localisation, air silent communication, unmanned space exploration, medical diagnosis/treatment, therapeutic agents and environmental monitoring/control.