New paper: The emerging science of electrosynbionics

Dr Katherine Dunn, Lecturer in the School of Engineering, has proposed the new word ‘electrosynbionics’ as an overarching term to describe the development of cutting-edge technologies such as biophotovoltaics and biobatteries. Her article ‘The emerging science of electrosynbionics’ has been published in the Institute of Physics journal ‘Bioinspiration and Biomimetics’.

The energy revolution

The global rate of electricity generation is increasing, but a significant proportion of the world’s electricity is generated from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. Together with other human activities, the use of non-renewable energy sources is releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing dramatic changes to Earth’s climate. To avert catastrophe, major changes are required in the way we generate, use and store electricity. Systems such as battery banks and solar panels have a role to play in the energy revolution, and new technologies have the potential to accelerate and smooth the transition to green power sources.

Drawing inspiration from nature

Many biological processes involve electrical phenomena, which can be harnessed for creation of new devices such as living photovoltaics and biobatteries. At present, efforts to develop such technologies are somewhat fragmented, and this may be partly due to the lack of an overarching term to describe such research. Dr Katherine Dunn has proposed the new word ‘electrosynbionics’, to define the creation of engineered devices that use components derived from or inspired by biology to perform a useful electrical function. Here, the phrase ‘electrical function’ refers to the generation, use and storage of electricity.


In a paper just published in the Institute of Physics journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, entitled ‘The emerging science of electrosynbionics’ [1], Dr Katherine Dunn defines this term in full, explores the state of the art in the field and discusses the outlook for the future. 


[1] K.E. Dunn. The emerging science of electrosynbionics. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 15:033001 (2020) DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/ab654f