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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