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Strumming an engineered protein quantum mechanically to create music.
Josiah Zayner
430 Facebook Friends
Chicago, Illinois
United States
2 Team Members

 Have you ever wanted to strum a protein quantum mechanically and hear its response?

The Chromochord is the first ever bioelectronic musical instrument! Using the Chromochord the musician interacts with engineered light responsive proteins to create music. This interaction and auditory experience based on protein nanotechnology is the first of its kind. The device uses a microplate reader to spectroscopically measure how the engineered LOV proteins respond to light stimulation by the musician. This reading then determines the musical parameters of the note being played. The proteins function similarly to strumming a string on a guitar string but instead the protein is being strummed quantum mechanically with light.

We want you to experience the fusion of Biologics and Electronics. 

Featured in


Cool Chromochord Uses

  • Your band is futuristic, and cutting edge. Not only do you need a pipette for you instrument, we have integrated the Chromochord with Open Source software to display the spectroscopic readings live! 
  • You are a DJ or Electronic Music Producer and you're tired of hearing those same repetitive beats. You want to add something more organic, something non-human, something quantum mechanical to the listeners ears. 
  • You are a huge technology nerd and instead of that old hipster record player you use for background music when people are over you want to blow your friends minds!
  • You are interested in Bioelectronics and want to tear it apart and learn about it or hack something new!

So after building and refining prototypes we are offering the Chromochord to the public to help fund our new project: A living musical instrument that plays music based off the responses of engineered cells to sounds.

The Future of Science and Technology is in Bioelectronics

Like the Terminator’s “organic tissue over a metal endoskeleton”, bioelectronics is a hybrid of Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering that synergistically creates something new and better than either can provide on their own. 

Looking around, there is no Synthetic Biology or Bioelectronics in our everyday lives. Nanotechnology has become a buzz word that means little more than something that you can't see and exists in movies and books. 

We want to change that with the Chromochord. We want to live in a world in which androids and cybernetic organisms exist. We want to live in a world where laptops and cell phones have living components and this project is one of the places where it can start. Our goals are to provide you with the experience of Bioelectronics and Nanotechnology so we can inspire a world to new ideas and technologies.

We have already created a prototype of the Chromochord (check out videos and music HERE and pictures below). The award winning composer Francisco Castillo Trigueros, is continuously creating amazing music and programming tools. Now we want to make the hardware, software and nanotechnology available to everyone while we also improving on the prototypes to make the Chromochord more powerful. 

We plan to document our day-to-day progress online as we work towards achieving our goals. (Check out Josiah's Blog Here)

We want everyone to be able to experience protein nanotechnology and speed its incorporation into the world around us. We want to see Science Fiction as Science Fact and high-five a Cybernetic organism. Or maybe just have it say a few words back to us. We think DIY Science can help shape the World.

See below for the details of The Chromochord's mechanism of function.

Explanation of Rewards

Bioelectronics Stickers

If you have any other slogan sugesstions for the logo please send them to 

logo [at] chromochord.com or leave a comment.

Bioelectronics T-Shirt

Chromochord Music

Francisco has already created some beautiful music with the Chromochord as part of a multi-day audiovisual installation at the Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago. He used different attributes of the protein to create dark, multilayered music that hovered in the room like a nebulous cloud. 

As we further develop the Chromochord's capabilities Francisco will create a full album of bioelectronic music that explores the possibilities of human/protein interaction.


Audiovisual installation at Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago, May 8th, 2013.


The AsLOV2 protein is a photochromic protein. It is uniquely structured so that it can bind a flavin mononucleotide molecule that functions to absorb light. Upon light absorption the yellow looking protein undergoes a chemical reaction and becomes clear looking. Over time the protein and chromophore reversibly return to a yellow color. The timescale of the photocycle is dependent on the local electronic environment of the flavin chromophore, which is determined by the side chains of the nearby amino acids. Through research we have found that this protein can be dried from certain solutions and used as photochromic material that lasts for more than 6 months (we expect it lasts much longer but have only tested up to 6 months). This is cool and means the protein can be used a paint, a tint or even a blue light sensor like in The Chromochord or whatever cool idea you can imagine.

The Beginner's Guide to Protein Engineering

Everything you ever wanted to know about how Scientist's engineer proteins to create cool new tools. Josiah has spent the past 7 years of his life doing protein engineering and developing ideas and ways to efficiently make protein nanotechnology. We want this knowledge to be available to you. Have you ever wanted to learn how to engineer a protein to perform complex mechanical phenomena based on statistical thermodynamics? Well then this Guide is for you! This book teaches you about the ways you can harness your personal computer to study proteins. Then it moves on to applying this knowledge in a personal lab environment to create new proteins yourself. 

The Chromochord

There were originally two versions of the Chromochord. We want to combine them.

Version 1 can be played by a musician. The prototype was built on top of a microplate reader for aestethic reason. It looks cool. This creates a slight lag in the readings because of the time it takes to read the microplate spectroscopically(one of the reasons we built a second version). This version requires a laptop running Linux and uses custom written software and an Arduino.  

Version 2 is one in which a musical score is created based on protein photocycle times and played by the software, which allows for much for complex musical arrangements to be made. Much like having a self-playing piano. This version is very visually stimulating and can be allowed to play in background or as a center piece generating very organic music based on the protein's degradation, temperature and individual photocycle times. Francisco will provide a number of custom written musical scores for this. This version required MAX/MSP software.

We are combining the two instruments together to create a Chomochord that can be played and play on it's own. It will look very similar to the picture above. It weighs less than 5 Kg(~2 Lbs.) can be transported easy and is easy to setup and use.

Chromochord videos can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/chromochord

Custom Engineered LOV2 Protein

Have you ever wanted to learn about protein nanotechnology and design? Josiah will communicate with you through email and Video Chat to teach you about the light responsive Avena sativa(OatLOV2 protein. He will work with you to help you create a unique engineered version. He will design a 3D model on a computer and show you how to visualize the structure on your own computer. He will then create and engineer DNA and a bacterial strain and a protocol if you ever want to create more of your protein. We will characterize its unique biophysical properties using UV-Visible spectroscopy. And we will also send you your engineered light responsive protein for you to use however you wish. In the case of an engineered protein being broken(i.e. it doesn't fold or express properly) we will send you others to play with along with your DNA, strain and computer model. 

Build Your BioElectronics Own Lab
Have you ever wanted to have your own Bioelectronics lab? Are you an individual who has always wanted to learn about Synthetic Biology? A school that wants to institute cutting edge Science curriculum? A small start-up that wants equipment and training for a good price? A hackerspace that wants to move into bioengineering? Someone or a group of someones who just love Science? We will work with anyone. We will provide you with all the equipment needed to start a lab including but not limited to: digital multimeter, soldering station, signal generator, microscope, centrifuge, PCR machine, electrophoresis and power supply, incubator, pipettes, enzymes, bacteria and many tools and consumables. One of us will fly out and help set it up and give a hands-on day long course. We will work with you to develop a curriculum and lab to suit your interests.

Chromochord Details

The Chromochord contains spectrophotometer linked to custom computer software that takes measurements of the chemical changes in a proteins state and translates them into musical parameters such as notes. The protein that is used is the Avena sativa(Oat) LOV2 domain from the phototropin 1 protein or AsLOV2 as we call it. This protein is bound to a small molecule chromophore called flavin mononucleotide of FMN. This FMN is what absorbs the light and goes from a singlet state to triplet state with high probability. This quantum mechanical transition causes the electronic nature of the FMN to change and a meta-stable covalent bond to form with a nearby cysteine residue. This covalent bond formation and chemical reduction changes the absorption maximum of the FMN chromophore and this is what The Chromochord is measuring. This photocycle process is reversible and the length depends on statistical thermodynamics, the electronic environment around the FMN, temperature and frequency of light pulses. 

Apart from the chemical reaction of the FMN there is also a conformational change in the structure of the protein that cause helices to unfold from their natural structure. This conformational change contributes to the length of the photocycle by changing the protein's interactions with the FMN and modifying the ability of water to interact with it.


Using protein engineering we have modified the photocycle length and nature creating long reacting proteins and short reacting proteins. This allows many different engineered protein solutions to be used simultaneously to create unique parameters.

For the nerds. Papers from studies that Josiah has done on the AsLOV2 protein can be found Here.

If you have any specific questions about the research we plan to do we encourage you to email us at josiah.zayner [at] chomochord.com


Francisco and Josiah

Dr. Josiah Zayner

Ph.D. University of Chicago, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, 2013
M.S. Appalachian State University, Cell and Molecular Biology, 2008
B.A. Southern Illinois University, Plant Physiology, 2006
Motorola Engineer, 2000-2002

At the age of 19 I was hired by Motorola as a self-taught network engineer and computer programmer working with the iDEN cell phone network. Two years later I was laid off along with more than 50,000 other Motorolians when the DotCom bubble burst. This influenced me to goto college to study biology. I wanted to work on something that had more purpose than just making money. I did plant physiology research during my undergrad, experiments on the pathogenic bacteria Vibrio cholerae during my Masters and for my Ph.D. I did research determining how to engineer the light responsive LOV protein family for use in optogenetic applications. Currently, I am interested in bringing the awesome experience of Bioelectronics and Synthetic Biology to people.

My papers on protein engineering can be found Here.

Francisco Castillo Trigueros

Ph.D candidate University of Chicago, Music Composition
M.Mus. Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Music Composition
B.Mus. Rice University, Music Composition

I am a composer, sound artist, and computer music programmer from Mexico City residing in Chicago. I have received numerous distinctions such as the BMI Student Composer Award, and two honorable mention in the 2011 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. I work extensively with ensembles that integrate instruments and performers from different parts of the world and also compose for traditional classical music formations often including the use of electronics. I am interested in untraditional projects that redefine the way in which we understand and listen to music. 

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Select a Perk
  • $5USD
    Bioelectronics Logo Sticker

    We will send you a couple 2"x3.5" sticker containing our Bioelectronics logo see image in the main text. The image contains our custom colorized version of the first structure of DNA published by Watson and Crick and the electrical engineering symbol for an LED.

    2 out of 1000 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $15USD
    Chromochord Music

    You will receive digital access to a collection of songs made by the award winning composer Francisco Castillo Trigueros played by The Chromochord.

    6 out of 1000 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $25USD
    Bioelectronics T-shirt

    Check out the t-shirt in main text using our Bioelectronics logo. The image contains our custom colorized version of the first structure of DNA published by Watson and Crick and the electrical engineering symbol for an LED.

    4 out of 1000 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $30USD
    LOV2 Protein

    We will send you dried LOV2 protein that can be reconstituted in water. The sample will be ~100 micromolar in concentration at 5mL. Use it as paint, as a blue light sensor, to build your own Chromochord or to impress your friends. We will also send you the biophysical properties determined for your particular engineered version and a 3D computer model with instructions on how to visualize it and print a picture.

    0 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $100USD
    Beginner's Protein Engineering

    This is a Beginner's Guide to Protein Engineering. We will send you LOV2 DNA, LOV2 protein and a book containing tutorials and methods and where to find the necessary materials to engineer your own LOV2 protein. Topics of discussion include: physical-chemistry of proteins, protein visualization, protein simulation, DNA mutagenesis and cloning, protein expression in bacteria and protein purification.

    4 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2014
  • $250USD
    Custom Engineered LOV2 Protein

    EARLY BIRD: We will communicate with you teach you about protein engineering and protein structure visualization. So you can choose a custom light activated protein that we will create and study for you and Science! And then send to you. See Project Overview for a more detailed description.

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2014
  • $500USD

    EARLY BIRD: We will build you your own custom Chromochord, send you LOV2 protein to use it and all the software and troubleshooting you need to have it up and running. See Main Text for more details.

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • $700USD
    Chromochord and Custom Protein

    EALRY BIRD: Not only will you receive your own Chromochord but we will also help you design and engineer your own custom LOV2 protein so you have a completely one of a kind Bioelectronic musical instrument running on your own created protein nanotechnology!

    1 out of 3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: March 2014
  • $5,000USD
    Chromochord and Demo

    We will build you a Chromochord and fly it out to you anywhere in the continental US give a presentation and demonstration for you or a group. Set it up for you and teach you how to use it.

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $5,000USD
    The Music Producer Package

    We will send you a Chromochord. Enough protein to last a year. Francisco will work with you to create a custom sound package designed for The Chromochord. Troubleshooting for a year.

    0 out of 1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $10,000USD
    Build A Bioelectronics Lab

    We will help you build your own Synthetic Biology lab any where in the Continental US. We will purchase all the equipment and supplies have it delivered to you and fly out to you to help you set it up and give a day long hands-on experience teaching you or a group about Synthetic Biology. See main text for a more detailed description.

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2014
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