IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications
31 August-3 September 2020 // Virtual Conference

T14: Internet of Bio-Nano Things: Transmitter and Receiver Architectures for Molecular Communications


Dr Murat Kuscu,
Koc University, TR & University of Cambridge, UK


£50 Tutorial only | Tutorial + Full Conference access from £120

Half-day Tutorial, Monday 31st August 14:00 (BST)
Further pricing details can be found on the registration page.

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As IoT approaches technological maturity with many applications in diverse fields, there emerges a need for new integrative approaches that will push the current boundaries to extend the application domain. Internet of Everything is promising in this respect by bringing a holistic view of regarding the Universe we live in as an interconnected network comprising entities ranging from planets down to plants, cells, and functional single molecules.

IoE is promising to spark a whole new set of applications emerging from the close and seamless interaction of heterogeneous technologies including the naturally existing ones, such as the human body systems.

In the center of this holistic approach lies an emerging ICT framework, IoBNT, which is positioned to extend our connectivity and control over unexplored domains with unprecedented resolution with natural and artificial nano-biological functional devices.

The most promising communication technology for realizing the IoBNT is molecular communications, as it ubiquitously manifests itself in many complex systems already existing in the Universe, and thus, stands as one of the most common communication modalities in the Universe, optimized from many aspects as a result of billions of years of evolutionary advancement.

Making use of this naturally existing technology requires understanding of its foundations through our existing modeling and analysis tools. This quest, which has started almost 15 years ago, has received a large attention from ICT researchers, which have been overly inspired from conventional EM research in their approach to this radically different communication paradigm. These theoretical approaches, however, have not always come with sufficient physical relevance.

Now, this emerging field has come to a critical turning point, as many researchers have started to report on initial MC experiments following different approaches and using different materials, however, consistently pointing out a discrepancy between the obtained experimental results and the past theoretical works. This reveals the need for rethinking of the previous efforts, and coming up with new interdisciplinary strategies to build experimental testbeds to validate the theoretical models and optimize the MC techniques towards closing the gap expediting the transfer of this emerging technology to the market.

The main objectives of this tutorial are outlined as follows:

  • To introduce the IoE and IoBNT frameworks with a top-down approach, underlining the potential of IoBNT towards overcoming the connectivity, miniaturization, and interoperability challenges of the IoE framework.
  • To deliver the fundamentals of MC in light of underlying principles of existing MC systems in various natural IoBNT, such as interkingdom molecular signaling in gut-brain axis, neuro-spike communication in neural networks.
  • To give a critical review and assessment of the artificial MC techniques, e.g., modulation, coding, detection, channel estimation, in light of recently proposed transmitter and receiver designs.
  • To overview the very recent experimental efforts to implement practical MC systems at different scales with a focus on graphene and related nanomaterial-enabled microfluidic MC testbeds, and discuss the new challenges revealed by these experiments that call for interdisciplinary research.

Structure and content

  1. Internet of Everything
    • The novel concept of Internet of Everything (IoE) will be introduced by highlighting its foundations in the natural Internets of the Universe, e.g., gene interaction networks and plant networks, and developing ideas through discussing as to how higher-level intelligence can result from the interaction of data, processes and data sources on heterogeneous domains. Next, the vision to exploit this crucial interplay towards unprecedented applications will be detailed, after the key components of the IoE, i.e., people, things, data, and processes, will be outlined. There exist many challenges for the realization of the IoE. These challenges are mainly due to the strict requirements for ubiquitous connectivity, energy efficiency of IoE nodes, interoperability among heterogeneous networks and technologies, and miniaturization of IoE devices, and new methods and analytical tools to cope with the scarcity of the bandwidth, big data arising from huge number of things, and diverse set of requirements of different applications. I will review the most challenging issues in this emerging research field and give an overview of fundamental research directions to address these challenges.
  2. Internet of Bio-Nano Things (IoBNT): Framework, Applications, and Challenges
    • IoBNT is a novel ICT framework, in which nanomachines and biological entities such as nanobiosensors, living cells, engineered bacteria, are connected with each other and with conventional macroscale networks, such as the Internet, to cooperatively perform sensing, actuation and processing. IoBNT is the most crucial technology for enabling Internet of Everything, as it is key to our success in our quest to interact with the Universal IoE at the molecular resolution. IoBNT will play a vital role especially in future healthcare by connecting networks of nano-biosensors and actuators operating inside and near human-body to healthcare provider for remotely monitoring patients’ health through the Internet and administering drugs to patients. Realization of IoBNT, however, demands novel engineering solutions to overcome unique challenges resulting from the peculiarities of nanoscale-physics and limited capabilities of bio-nano things. These challenges call for novel approaches to devise solutions for a set of modeling, analysis and implementation problems on a highly interdisciplinary domain covering engineering, nanotechnology and biophysics. In this part of the tutorial, I will discuss the envisioned applications of IoBNT along with these key research challenges.
  3. Nanoscale Communication Methods for IoBNT
    • I will give an overview of the state-of-the-art approaches to nanoscale communications and nanonetworks, e.g., bio-inspired molecular communications, THz-band electromagnetic nano communications, and nano-optical communications. Furthermore, I will compare these approaches with each other as well as with classical communication paradigms such as wired and wireless communications to reveal their fundamental differences, strengths as well as shortcomings from communication and information-theoretical perspectives.
  4. Foundations of Natural IoBNT and Molecular Communications
    • IoBNT has been originated in the natural networks of biological systems and processes, including those in our own human body. Many biological entities in living organisms have similar structures with nanomachines, i.e., cells, and similar interaction/communication mechanism and vital processes with nanonetworks, i.e., cellular signaling. In this part, I will discuss these relations between the nanoscale and bio-inspired networking and highlight the current state-of-the-art to point out open research issues. More specifically, I will review the most vital biological systems and underlying molecular communication channels, molecular motors, calcium signaling, bacterial communication, and intra-body molecular communication nanonetworks, such as the nervous system, cardiovascular system and the endocrine system. I will discuss the results of the existing work on modelling and analysis of these channels, and possible bioinspired solutions for nanonetworks. Moreover, I will highlight some key open issues in the communication theoretical modelling and analysis of these nanonetworks.
  5. Artificial Molecular Communications
    • Information coding and transmission with molecules is called molecular communication. This part will be an introduction to the main artificial MC paradigms such as diffusion-based MC and Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)-based MC, with an overview of the current literature on the modelling, analysis, and simulation of various types of MC channels.
  6. MC Transmitter and Receiver Architectures
    • For the physical design of MC transmitter (Tx) and receiver (Rx), mainly two approaches have been envisioned: biological architectures based on engineered bacteria enabled by synthetic biology, and nanomaterial-based architectures. However, none of these approaches could be realized until recently. As a result, the majority of MC studies so far have mostly relied on assumptions isolating the MC channel from the physical processes regarding the transceiving operations, leading to a plethora of ICT techniques, feasibility and performance of which could not be validated. One of the main objectives of this tutorial is to help close the gap between theory and practice in MC research by presenting a comprehensive account of the recent proposals for the physical design of MC-Tx/Rx. To this end, I will first investigate the fundamental requirements for the physical design of micro/nanoscale MC-Tx and MC-Rx, such as those regarding the energy and molecule consumption, computational complexity and operating conditions. In light of these requirements, I will cover the two design approaches, namely the nanomaterial-based approach enabled by the newly discovered nanomaterials, e.g., graphene, and the biological approach enabled by the synthetic biology tools. For nanomaterial-based MC-Tx, I will investigate architectures based on microfluidics, stimuli-responsive hydrogels, and nanoporous structures, whereas for biological MC-Tx, I will particularly focus on transmission schemes based on bacterial conjugation, virus transmission, genetic circuit regulated protein transmission and enzyme regulated Ca2+ transmission. For nanomaterial-based MC-Rx, although I will mostly focus on nanoscale biosensor-based designs, I will also discuss receiver architectures widely utilized in recent macroscale MC experiments based on off-the-shelf components. Towards the biological design of MC-Rx, I will give a comprehensive review of synthetic biology tools available for sampling and decoding molecular messages.
  7. MC Modulation, Coding, and Detection Techniques
    • I will provide an overview and critical evaluation of the modulation, coding and detection methods proposed for MC over the last 15 years. Modulation techniques in MC fundamentally differ from that in conventional EM communications, as the modulated entities, i.e., molecules, are discrete in nature and the developed techniques should be robust against highly time-varying characteristics of the MC channel, as well as inherently slow nature of the propagation mechanisms. I will cover MC modulation techniques that encode information into the concentration, type, ratio, release time and release order of molecules, as well as the base sequences of nucleotides. I will also review the MC channel coding techniques that overcome the extremely noisy and intersymbol interference (ISI)-susceptible nature of MC channels via introducing redundant bits. The tutorial will cover MC-specific channel coding methods, such as the ISI-free coding scheme employing distinguishable molecule types, as well as the classical coding schemes, such as block and convolution codes, adapted to MC. Lastly, I will review the state-of-the-art MC detection techniques. Detection is by far the most studied aspect of MC in the literature. However, in devising detection methods, the lack of any MC-Rx implementation has led the researchers to make simplifying assumptions about the sampling process, receiver geometry, channel and reception noise. Accordingly, I will investigate MC detection methods under two categories: detection with passive/absorbing receivers and detection with reactive receivers. I will provide a qualitative comparison of these methods in terms of considered channel and receiver characteristics, complexity, type of required channel state information (CSI), and performance. In doing so, the implications of the recent MC experiments performed by multiple groups at different scales (i.e., micro and macroscale) will be frequently referenced to hint at the pathways towards more practical modulation, coding and detection techniques.
  8. Conclusions and Future Research Avenues
    • Despite considerable amount of ongoing research towards IoBNT and its applications, research community is quite young, and there are still many open research issues to address in implementing nanoscale communication systems and developing applications. Here, I will provide the concluding remarks along with a list of current active related research projects and dissemination tools for the related research results including some of the major conferences and workshops as well as journals and special issues specifically devoted to the field.

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