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Biotech Science Technology

Nanotube-Excreting Bacteria Allow Mass Production 73

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Engineers at the University of California, Riverside have found semiconducting nanotubes produced by living bacteria — a discovery that could help in the creation of a new generation of nanoelectronic devices. This is the first time nanotubes have been shown to be produced by biological rather than chemical means. In a process that is not yet fully understood, the bacterium secretes polysacarides that seem to produce the template for the arsenic-sulfide nanotubes. These nanotubes behave as metals with electrical and photoconductive properties useful in nanoelectronics. The article abstract is available from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
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Nanotube-Excreting Bacteria Allow Mass Production

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  • by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @04:27AM (#21622341)
    In general, nature re-uses everything. That means if bacteria excrete nanotubes, there are probably other organisms that feed on them. That makes me wonder if we'll find our wonderful nanotechnology will be vulnerable to organisms eating them...
    • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:29AM (#21622725)
      This phenomenon is well-known, and has frequently been described in scientific literature under the term "Politicojournalistivorism".
    • by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:38AM (#21622753)
      Every living organism is a special case of chemistry, so if an organism secretes something, that something might also be broken down without help of an organism, so yes, it's possible, but not necessary. Furthermore, should the need arise, I'm sure stuff made from carbon nanotubes can be made resistant to consumption by organisms for its expected lifetime just as for example a wooden ship, or a sheet of paper, or food, or whatever, can.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Furthermore, should the need arise, I'm sure stuff made from carbon nanotubes can be made resistant to consumption by organisms for its expected lifetime just as for example a wooden ship, or a sheet of paper, or food, or whatever, can.
        Unless you own a Labrador retriever. Trust me, they'll eat anything. Mine has an affinity for checkbook registers, including the vinyl cover.
    • They'll find that cats have long been producing our most valuable resource, and we were just too stupid to do anything but throw it out with the litter, instead of creating the awesome future they've been trying to have us construct for them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually, discussion on the nanotubes from bacteria usually talks about them being used to gain electron neutrality. Some bacteria may serve as acceptors, and others as the donors. What's interesting is that these tubes are also sometimes produced by bacteria seeking metallic elements in order to be able to "dump" their excess electrons, which may be used as a means of manufacturing them.

      Bacteria nanutubes have been discovered in 2006, but originally they were coined as nanoWIRES. This was before they t
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      but these don't seem to be the same composition as the all carbon ones. The chemically made carbon nanotubes have big environmental problems because they're nearly indestructible. One of the original purposes thought of for Buckyballs (the round relative) was to carry molecules of medicine, but in lab rats the balls were so durable they tore thru individual cell walls... perhaps these will have a natural decay rate so they can be widely deployed.
  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @04:38AM (#21622371) Homepage
    In a process that is not yet fully understood, the bacterium secretes polysacarides that seem to produce the template for the arsenic-sulfide nanotubes.

    Yes, well, at least they've been proven to not be a truck.
  • Awesome... (Score:4, Funny)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @04:50AM (#21622399)
    A new process to create a multi-core CPU and beer at the same time!
  • arsenic-sulphide? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wouldn't that mean that the waste would be arsenic and sulphide? Just what we need, landfills with arsenic and sulphide leaching into ground water.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Everyone knows not to mix e-waste with normal garbage, so it doesn't end up in landfills.
  • Swarm (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by bmgoau ( 801508 )
    Anyone read Prey by Michael Crichton?
    • Dearly love the book; one of my favorites. You seeing shades of it here? Using bacteria to create electrical components? That could then be assembled...
    • by H0D_G ( 894033 )
      Prey is an incredibly fanciful representation of nanotechnology. the situation described, as well as many of the properties attributed to nanomachines, is complete fiction. problem is, it's believeable to non-scientists. when talking about nanotechnolgy to non-scientists, I either get "what is that" or "you'll kill us all, grey goo." it's actually a damaging book, in that it actively attempts to hobble a science before it was anywhere near that level of complexity.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
        it's actually a damaging book, in that it actively attempts to hobble a science before it was anywhere near that level of complexity.

        Crichton may write what is passed off as "science" fiction, but he's fundamentally anti-technology, anti-progress, and unlike a Clarke or a Heinlein he's not always very careful about working through the numbers to make sure his vision of the future is even remotely probable. I can't stand his stuff for that reason, it's always the same thing. Man reaches for something he d
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Yes, and its a week I could have spent reading something a worthwhile.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      I pretty well gave up on him after the homocidal albino gorillas with stone ping pong bats in Congo and the entire plot of Sphere. For those of us that don't intend to read Prey what are you referring to?
      • It's Cricton. His collected works make up the Luddite's bible. It goes something like this: scientists make technology, demonstrate arrogance and lack of foresight, people die, and the reader's brain is injured by his clunky writing and inability to conceive a plot that doesn't telegraph itself from the dust jacket.
        • At the end of Jurassic Park he had the military (someone's military, I don't think he specified whose) bomb the island to kill all the saurians, and then (of course) had a colony of velociraptors escape the island and make it to the mainland. The presumption was that the raptors would breed and ultimately put us into a world of hurt. That whole book was classic Crichton, but in order to make the film palatable to everyone who made it out of the 1970's, Spielberg had to change ending. I stopped reading Crich
          • they sort of put the escape in the second movie when the pterodactyls followed the black helicopters to the mainland.
        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
          Yeah, but that's Crichton's audience, I read Prey, it was ok, I handed it over to a plumber so he could read it, and then my uncle the painter who liked Andromeda Strain and Jur-ass-has-had-it Park. Why?, Cause after they read it their eyes don't glaze over when you talk about nano-shit, they ask questions and when they do that they stop being luddites.

          Don't underestimate the value of an author like Crichton just because you're not his target audience. The best thing he could do is write the very stories h

    • I look at the works more as a critique of corporate culture than raw science. The idea that "all obstacles" to profit have to be avoided rather than simply lampooning scientific achievement in general.

      Even in computer science/security/privacy I see the same issues as in his books. Just because we CAN track purchases, google searches, etc. doesn't mean we have to or should. Many "normal" people don't see the difference between the ideas of "can" and "should/should not". Middle management (all the way to g
  • The son of a camel [] who wrote this article has taken the name of the sacred one(BBHHH) in vain! One hundred lashes is not too many!
  • whos on first? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by slyn ( 1111419 )
    Head scientist: What is all this shit?

    Scientist: Yes.

    HS: What?

    S: It's all shit.

    HS: What the hell are you babbling about?

    S: You asked me what all this was.

    HS: And what is it?

    S: Shit.

    HS: ???

    S: OHHH.... shit.... I thought you asked: "What is all this, shit?" My mistake.
  • Owwie! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mbstone ( 457308 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:01AM (#21622623)
    It must really hurt to excrete a nanotube. Maybe some nanoprunes would help.
    • by tkw954 ( 709413 )
      PETA must hear of this! This enslavement and torture of living organisms must end now!
  • by prollifik ( 1094359 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @06:21AM (#21622695)
    See also this link. There's a picture. []
  • by jjq ( 589527 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @07:23AM (#21622927)
    I've a question: it seems that nanowire and nanotube are the same objects. In that case, nothing so new. See [] and a paper in the June 23, 2005 issue of Nature about the geobacter bacteria. I did a funny use of it during the rump session of CRYPTO 2005 at UCSB, see [] "The geobacter attack: when nanotechnology meets chips" with the slides and the video.
  • ..for some senator to start talking about how we need to tax all these nano-internets.
  • ...if we could find an organism that has corn in its poop!
    • You've obviously never eaten corn. Everything that eats corn has corn in it's poop.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )
      Whenever I eat corn, I have corn in my poop. My body doesn't digest it very well you see. Am I going to be the solution to the world fuel shortage now? Am I going to be rich and famous?
  • by rbnigh ( 1063950 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @10:10AM (#21623607)
    These researchers are so focussed on industrial production of nanotubes (big bucks) that the completely forget to mention the really interesting part of their 'discovery'. Bacteria exude polysaccharides to create biofilms, the principal expression of bacterial populations in nature. What are the implications of this for the way bacteria control ecosystems? And, by the way,if we don't have a clue as to what is going on here, wouldn't it be prudent to understand a little more before *we* start exuding nanotubes hither and thither?
    • C'mon, this is beyond big bucks. This what could change nanotech from curiosity to mainstream. Everyone talked about commercial infeasibility of the space elevator and such. But is that really about big bucks? If this works on large scale, it would be beyond money. It could redefine humanity.
  • Prey (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sageimac ( 1090741 )
    Has anyone read "Prey" by Michael Crichton? This is scary science fiction coming true.
    • Prey is not only laughably implausible in reality... it's only incidentally related. Prey featured nano-robots forming a sort of distributed-group-consciousness-thingy. No one is making nano-robots. People are making nano-tubes, which have about as much relationship to nano robots as a three-foot section of copper phone wire has to a regular-sized robot... and you need more than just that for Prey, you need wireless-mesh-communication self-aware mind-controlling evil nanorobots who can fly through the air l
      • I'll put it like this:
        Real World Nanotech is to Prey
        Real World Hacking is to "It's a unix system! I know this!"

        (and to the anal-retentive Crichton fan, yes I know that was in the movie, not the book)

    • Naah. It's just you being unable to tell real science from the bullshit that Crichton writes. It's entertaining, sure, but has very little basis in reality. If you really are scared because of something Crichton wrote, do the world a favor and stop having a public opinion on anything scientific, because you're doing more harm than good.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @10:38AM (#21623783)
    I've been trying to train myself to excrete nanotubes, but so far all I've gotten are macrorods.
  • building-tech-from-the-bottom-up
  • by perbert ( 241785 ) on Saturday December 08, 2007 @01:02PM (#21624777) Homepage
    It is just me, or is there irony in the fact that the nanopoop is AsS?
  • This is quite a discovery!

    This may open the door for much, much smaller, less expensive tubes to replace the Internet's current tubular system.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde