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Sea Creatures to Provide Basis for New Electronics? 57

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the it's-zoidbergs-time! dept.
hakaii writes to tell us that the shells of tiny sea creatures may help to lay the foundation for new electronic devices including an improved pollution detector. "Using a chemical process that converts the shells' original silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2) into the semiconductor material silicon, researchers have created a new class of gas sensors based on the unique and intricate three-dimensional (3-D) shells produced by microscopic creatures known as diatoms. The converted shells, which retain the 3-D shape and nanoscale detail of the originals, could also be useful as battery electrodes, chemical purifiers - and in other applications requiring complex shapes that nature can produce better than humans."
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Sea Creatures to Provide Basis for New Electronics?

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  • by jacquesm (154384) <j&ww,com> on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:32PM (#18295548) Homepage
    One more item on the list of the patent ghouls, no doubt.

    We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers)
    with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already
    part of nature.

    I watched a movie called the corporation not so long ago, (it's free to download), and it really
    opened my eyes to how far we've drifted off from being 'good stewards' of the planet.

    I'm happy that we are scanning nature for clues on how we can do our material science better
    but I fear that a few years down the line we'll see that dow chemicals now owns it...

    • by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:37PM (#18296100)

      We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers) with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already part of nature.
      The article itself is an excellent counter-example to your claim. Or are you suggesting that sea-shells were designed to be electronic circuits? :P Engineering genius consists of tailoring Nature to suit our needs. To a clam, a shell is simply a shell, a means of protection, a dead hulk that surrounds it. To the engineer who thought up this application, it was much more than that. It was a ready template to design micro circuitry. It is incomprehensible to me how this translates to "simply appropriating what already exists in nature". There are levels of understanding and levels of control. Sure, we can't engineer devices from scratch (i.e. from the level of subatomic particles :P), but that is hardly an issue is it? One might as well say that a factory produces paint and canvas, so the artist does nothing. While this may be true for some so-called artists *roll*, surely that's fallacious in general?
      • by jacquesm (154384)
        re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

        just try to have an absolutely original thought, and if you manage try to explain that
        thought without having to reference the last 4,000 years of shared culture that we have.

        I love this quote: we stand on the shoulders of those that went before us. And I'd like
        to add to that that anything that you think you've invented because nature doesn't
        use it in that particular way is waiting out there to be discovered one day. (not
        in a literal
        • by maxume (22995)
          Most of the rest of us are happy to use 'thoughtful application of' where you insist that 'invention' doesn't work.

          As much as you are interested in quibbling over 'invention', it's a wonder that you would accuse an eel of 'using' anything.
        • re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

          The invention can be the process by which a sea shell becomes an electronic circuit.
        • by mollog (841386)
          re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

          Was this your quote? I don't think you're right. I'm pretty sure the patent office will issue a patent for a new use of an existing invention. That would imply that a new use is an 'invention'.
        • Even the wheel has a direct equivalent in nature.... (when it was thought for years that that was not the case)

          I would love to know what that equivalent is. I really can't guess what it might be. Don't you dare leave us in suspense at this point! =D

          As far as the eel example goes, it's a bad one as you can argue that only for the invention of the electric chair. I can't imagine any other "use" that the eel puts it's electricity to :P. As I've said before, so I say again - invention is not about creation from nothingness; you have that mistaken with genesis (*snicker*; sorry =D); rather it is about control. There'

          • by jacquesm (154384)
            if you're trying to link me with creationism you're so far off base it's not even funny.

            as for the wheel reference, there you go:

            http://www.newscientist.com/backpage.ns?id=mg18524 852.700 [newscientist.com]

            I'll make it simple:

            I'm against patents.

            of any kind.

            But I'm *especially* against patents of anything that you find in nature and
            I think that the general rule should be that if you can find a close analogy
            of any structure, device, process, binary sequence (genes) or creature in
            nature then you should not be able to patent it
            • if you're trying to link me with creationism you're so far off base it's not even funny.

              I try to mock creationism every opportunity I get. Nothing to do with you =D. Please don't take it personally. Maybe the

              (*snicker*; sorry =D)

              wasn't explicit enough in my post. *shrug*

              I'm against patents. of any kind.

              That doesn't mean we should not be looking at nature for ideas and useful bits & pieces, it just means that when you do *discover* those that you are not able to go out and stick your name on it and bar everybody else from using the same without paying you, the original discoverer a royalty.

              And thanks for the article about the bacterial wheels. It's a neat story and it makes you wonder whether the original caveman inventor of the wheel would still get his patent. It would be unfair not to as we couldn't really look at bacteria for (possibly) millennia after it was invented by humans. Does that mean that if someone invented a devi

              • Sorry to double-post but I just saw the quotation of the day (or whatever it is) on the bottom of the Slashdot page.

                Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and think what nobody else has thought.
                Hmm, seems to fit my previous post =D. The patent is a reward for seeing the possibilities in a naturally occuring phenomenon. Hindsight is 20/20 and the devil is in the details. (Damn, call me Mr. Cliche today =D).
    • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:43PM (#18296148) Homepage Journal
      I watched a movie called the corporation not so long ago,

      Torrent (via mininova) available here [mininova.org]. Everyone watch this - it's great.
    • by rbanffy (584143)

      We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers)
      with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already
      part of nature.

      Says the man who arrived at his air-conditioned office using a four wheeled car powered by an internal combustion engine.

      Yea, right. We got our inspiration on the myriad wild compressed-gas-heat-exchanging hydrocarbon-burning wheeled beast that roamed the fields of yore. And we used our Von Neumann silicon brains to refine those patterns we merely found in nature.

  • For far too long, the oceans crustaceans have been forced to live in servitude, with the knowledge of impending death looming over their tiny spineless brains. Aquatic mollusks existing purely to create better speakers, gas sensors, and the mighty Kraken slain and now used to broadcast XM Radio to Illinois. You've gone too far!


    Seriously, though, this is sort of cool. When can we see shell bikinis with embedded iPods?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fireboy1919 (257783)
      Personally, I'm a lot more concerned for the scallop's smaller cousin. Sure, everybody's all about freeing the scallops, but what about the mallocs?

      They get totally ignored and end up leaking toxic stuff all over the place.

      So everyone, free the mallocs to stop the leaks!
  • by Loadmaster (720754) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:39PM (#18295626) Homepage
    Zoidberg: Hooray, I'm useful! I'm having a wonderful time.

    Swi
  • New electronics? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugnuts (94678) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:41PM (#18295648) Journal
    The driving force of consumer CPU advancements has always been the gamers.

    I don't think the uber gamers who demand the fastest processors will want CPUs made out of snails.
  • by L. VeGas (580015) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:46PM (#18295698) Homepage Journal
    Appetizers. Cartoon characters. And now, electronics!
  • diatoms (Score:2, Informative)

    Diatoms, is there anything they cant do? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth [wikipedia.org]
  • by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:03PM (#18295852) Journal
    Please use sea monkeys. The marketing potential is enormous!
  • lasers (Score:4, Funny)

    by owlnation (858981) on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:15PM (#18295952)
    laser beams, gimme fricking laser beams on them...
  • used to filter beer (Score:3, Informative)

    by daniel23 (605413) on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:23PM (#18295998)
    I stumbled over some industrial use of diatom earth quite some time ago, things like adding the stuff to color mixtures to give it the right viscosity. But the best is: it's used to filter the yeast out of beer. All those surreal 3d structures of the diatom skeleton (and TFA pictured an extremly boring one, they have thorns and what not) help to catch the yeast cells when thrown into a tank of mature beer, the diatom earth ("sand") slowly sinks to the bottom and takes most of the yeast cells with it.
    The beer is pumped off and put into bottles afterwards and the remaining goo goes to the waste or recycling. Which has to happen soon, if they wait to long (or in summer), the yeast sort of explodes running over the container it was put in and is hard to remove...
  • We all know this is just a company ploy forcing us to upgrade our fresh water cooled systems to sea creature tolerant salt water cooled systems!
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      upgrade our fresh water cooled systems to sea creature tolerant salt water cooled systems!

            I don't know many multi-celled sea creatures tolerant of 80 degree (C) sea-water. But then again, I run AMD... and I love clam chowder!!! 3. Profit???
  • "and in other applications requiring complex shapes that nature can produce better than humans."

    That last bit reminds me of the Rama Series (Arthur C. Clark / Gentry Lee ) and how the third species genetically engineered creatures to fill the needs of the colony.
    • by bjackson1 (953136)
      I think you are looking for Octospiders. I've always found his conjecture in his book that warfare is the only thing that has truly pushed human civilization, whereas all of the technology of the Octospider's was developed to counter the need for warfare.
  • It's a proxy server. This is not news.
  • Underwater shellfish near extinction. 'doh!

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr

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