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MIT Researcher Enlists Bacteria To Assemble Nanotech Materials

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the would-change-ikea-directions-forever dept.

Biotech 36

The Register reports on an approach to nanotech that combines biological computing with micro-mechanics, embodied in the work of MIT associate professor Timothy Lu. Lu's research has resulted in the creation of tiny structures assembled using modified E. coli. "Specifically," says the article, "the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work producing conducting biofilms, some of which were studded with quantum dots, and arranging gold nanowires. This paves the way for the development of mass manufactured cell-based material factories, and even 'living materials' that have some of the desirable properties of bones or trees, Lu confirmed." His most radical idea, says Lu, is furniture that shapes itself to cushion the user's most-stressed areas.

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dogchairs (1)

jcomeau_ictx (696704) | about 10 months ago | (#46561701)

"furniture that shapes itself to cushion the user's most-stressed areas"... the Bene Gesserit have had those for years.

Re:dogchairs (1)

jcomeau_ictx (696704) | about 10 months ago | (#46561705)

oops, chairdog. I had a 50% chance of getting it right before googling.

Re:dogchairs (2)

Cryacin (657549) | about 10 months ago | (#46561747)

Hmm, nanotech assembly, build anything you want from the molecular level upwards, and the most "radical" idea they have is for a piece of furniture? Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.

Re:dogchairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46561789)

bacteria-assembled metamaterial invisibility cloak

Re:dogchairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46563257)

Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.

Well, in this case it's more 'modify a bacteria to eat part of the shell of a peanut in such a way that the remnants of the shell fall apart as you pick it up, then die off so you're not eating GMed e. coli.'

Re:dogchairs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46561797)

Yo, I heard you like chairdogs so I put a dog in your chair and ... well, I hope that suits you.

Re:dogchairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562031)

Yo, I heard you like chairdogs so I put a dog in your chair and ... well, I hope that suits you

... the one with sharp teeth and strong jaws ?

Re:dogchairs (2)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 10 months ago | (#46562917)

I would award this guy a Nobel if he could at least come up with furniture that identifies and kills bedbugs.

Re:dogchairs (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 10 months ago | (#46563971)

Teg would not approve.

Re:dogchairs (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#46565153)

Its all good..................until your chair catches a virus.

Gay sex from a MIT researcher's perspective (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46561761)

I am currently enrolled at MIT. I left Georgia Tech which SUCKS but is in the middle of GAY ATLANTA. Don't ask how I got in there. However, it is a harder curriculum, and it is easier to make good grades here with pass/fail.
Again, Georgia Tech sucks anal beads. Some of my friends failed out when they shouldn't have.

Oh great, MORE job losses (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 months ago | (#46561817)


Re:Oh great, MORE job losses (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 10 months ago | (#46561881)

American H1Bacteria !! .. No outsorsing here ! even unicellulars have their share in the yeeconomy .

Setting One's Sights Low (3, Insightful)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 10 months ago | (#46561839)

I am thunderstruck by the irony of the mind-blowing promise of this technique and the "most radical" use that the lead author can dream up (according to the Register, anyway, which has a reputation to me of overhyping a story and burying leads): A comfy chair made of high-tech volatile-memory foam which needs to eat.

Another irony: the original TFA appears to be paywalled so we mortals get to read the Register's digest of it. Maybe some advanced-degree reader of Nature can come up with some more original (and profitable, to boot) use for this technique. I mean, quantum dots, gold nanowires and such can conceivably lead to computational devices, can't they? Can this be used to extend Moore's Law further into the future?

Without even using imagination (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#46561957)

Snails teeth made of dislocation free incredibly high strength iron is a pretty amazing existing use of metal assembly by an organism without even getting into possibilities. Scaling up something like that (or scaling it up with other materials) has a lot of potential even before getting into possibilities of design right down to the microscopic level - not just composite materials but incorporating electronics and tiny mechanisms.
Drexler wrote a lot about those sort of possibilities in a few very easy to read books and kicked off a major nanotechnology craze, not to mention plenty in SF. How did a tech journalist manage to avoid that?

Re:Setting One's Sights Low (1)

Vinod Kumar (2922995) | about 10 months ago | (#46562003)

Can You be more discriptive to this as i m not able to conclude anything Anjimile Mtila Oponyo

Re:Setting One's Sights Low (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#46562391)

Nature Materials hasn't actually put the paper in an issue yet. When they do, there should be some decent editorial in Nature Mat itself and probably Nature's public news site. Meanwhile these articles are riffing on this press release and (apparently) some other press comments the author has made.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/... [mit.edu]

These hybrid materials could be worth exploring for use in energy applications such as batteries and solar cells, Lu says. The researchers are also interested in coating the biofilms with enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of cellulose, which could be useful for converting agricultural waste to biofuels. Other potential applications include diagnostic devices and scaffolds for tissue engineering.

The Register writes text news with the editorial style and standards of a red-top tabloid, and your reaction to the research it describes should be filtered appropriately.

Re:Setting One's Sights Low (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#46562395)

Text news? Tech news.

Minimum Wage For Bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46561863)

E.Coli of the world, unite !

Fact stranger than fiction? (1)

elecwolf (569076) | about 10 months ago | (#46561885)

I specifically remember some 30 years ago reading in a Who's Who of Marvel, this was exactly how Iron Man assembled his armor so that he could put in all the layers needed for electronics, protection, etc. Once nanotech became the big buzzword I assumed they had already explored this and decided it wasn't possible.

Implementation harder than Ideas (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#46561971)

There's a lot of stuff going on at the microscopic level that makes things harder than at the macro level. For instance tiny gears stick together a lot more than large ones due to different forces being proportionally higher at that scale. The same thing that helps geckos cling to the ceiling makes it difficult to turn microscopic gear wheels.
On a different note it's relatively trivial to lay down material for a semiconductor junction that's only one atomic layer thick (eg. chemical vapour deposition), but getting it a few atoms wide is a very different story.

I for one wellcome (1)

dimko (1166489) | about 10 months ago | (#46561927)

I for one welcome our bacteria assembled overlords!

Re:I for one wellcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562263)

That's good, because they need you.

in before grey goo (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 10 months ago | (#46561935)


Prey (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about 10 months ago | (#46561977)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Michael Crichton's novel "Prey" is set into motion...

Re:Prey (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#46562409)

What, the researchers called their agent and said "I'm doing The Andromeda Strain again, but with nanomachines"?

Re:Prey (1)

iMadeGhostzilla (1851560) | about 10 months ago | (#46564547)

Let's hope someone in DARPA has read the book past the first couple of chapters and will alert the management to not cancel their funding for the camera that they got the idea for after reading the first couple of chapters. :-)

So basically, he's just offering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562005)

to apply modern science in a manner similiar to that described in 'Copernick's Rebellion'?

Anybody who hasn't read it yet, should. Provides some insight into both the bros and cons of potentially crafting all our household items out of biological components, and the consequences of our hubris in regards to taking the benefits of biology and nature without giving back in kind.

Can You explain this (0)

Vinod Kumar (2922995) | about 10 months ago | (#46562011)

Can You explain this Anjimile Mtila Oponyo

I read a book on this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562049)

I think Michael Crichton predicted this...

Re:I read a book on this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562219)

no it was Michael Jackson ... if that bacteria is black or white .. tene ne ne .. nene ne neee .. aooouu!!

A Gut Filling About It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562351)

No shit? I do hope it "symbiotizes" quickly and positively. Lest we forget all the other GMOs and addives and honest poisons already out there, in the system and flowing through it.


Tune In Drop Out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46562379)

The average gut is about 8.5m long. Which equates to about 35.25MHz on the E-M scale. Plus "lesser" harmonics. Hm.

Captcha : "A-colyte" :p

Not legal, is it? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 10 months ago | (#46565229)

"the MIT researchers were able to put bacteria to work

Hasn't slavery been illegal in the US for many years? Did anyone ask the bacteria if they wanted to work, and has the AFL-CIO been able to lobby them for unionization?

I'm not sure having e.coli as slaves is a good thing, especially in chairs. The first naked guy who sits on one will introduce the slaves in the chair to the free bacteria, and there may be a mass exodus of slaves from the chair up into the land of freedom and free food.

Michael Crichton's Prey anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46567917)

Michael Crichton's Prey anyone?

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