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Bacteria Can Build Nanowires 94

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have discovered that under certain conditions, some very common bacteria can form nanowires. These bacteria were able to produce nanowires as small as 10 nanometers in diameter, but which can reach hundreds of microns in length. What is interesting here is that these nanowires are electrically conductive ones. This means that bacteria could be used to build microbial fuel cells or bacteria-powered batteries. As one researcher said, 'Earth appears to be hard-wired.'"
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Bacteria Can Build Nanowires

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  • bacteria powered accu cells.. I'm not a scientist, But i always heared that bacteria multiply faster in warm en high humidity environments. So how much influance would this have an the power or lifetime? That this might be handy for pacemakers and other 'internal' devices in the human body which need some degree of power. The human body has in theory a stable temperature.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @06:41AM (#15704137) Homepage Journal
    Bob the bacteria.
    Can we build it?
    Yes we can!

    Sorry, not enough caffeine

  • Boring. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Yawn. Wake me when they have bacteria that eat the flesh of Roland Piquepaille.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @06:47AM (#15704147)
    I imagine with machines built by bacteria it would be possible to create a situation where the ideal harware design is evolved - similar to how genetic programming techniques today evolve software solutions. Maybe we'd even learn something new and exciting about hardware design.
    • Ms. Coli: Today's lesson is brought to you by the letter "W"

      Engineer student: Oh I thought this was Hardware Design 101, not politics.

      Surfer: Dude, y'er thinking Dubya. The prof wants to talk about Wire again this semester.

      Ms. Coli: Actually, we will be talking about Wire for the next 3.5 million semesters. Today we begin trying to understand why it hurts when the wire comes out.
    • Wouldn't it be simpler, in the case you specified, to do the designs on a computer instead and then use the aforementioned "genetic programming techniques"? Why involve an organism at all?

      Assuming the bacteria themselves aren't going to be used in the finished product, then what possible gain is there in using them in both design and construction? If you must have an evolved element in the design (and I do see the advantage here), then it makes far more sense to develop the blueprints for whatever it is y
    • I'm not sure that doesn't presuppose that biological development (ie evolution) is deterministic, it's not.

      The value of biological development in evolution is the number of parallel iterations over time, and the system's redundancy. In the same sense, we look at biological systems now and marvel at their complexity, but really, we're seeing the itsy-bitsy proportion of successes and NOT immediately noticing that behind it is a huge timespan and multitudes of failures.

      I have no doubt that EVENTUALLY such or
    • Hold on a minute. I don't think that's how evolution works.

      The evolution of the bacteria is driven by natural selection. Natural selection is a wonderful and amazing force of nature; it has enabled the elephant with its all-purpose trunk, birds with aerodynamic and flight-sustaining wings, and humans with their vastly complex brain.

      Natural selection has limitations, however. It is entirely blind to the future--it cannot even see one generation in advance. If a given mutation works out for an organism, it li
    • Genetic programming techniques are already being used to design computer hardware. Simulated aneeling(sp?), for example, is used to find near-minimal-length trace layouts.
  • by celardore ( 844933 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @07:05AM (#15704181)
    If you used any kind of germicide or the like on your wires / kit, you'd be screwed!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You surely want the bacteria dead once you have built your circuit anyway. If you keep them alive, they could carry on making more wire which may then cause a short circuit and then screw up your circuit completely.

      Ok, I know it was supposed to be a joke, but it was based on a stupid assumption.
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dekortage ( 697532 )
    I, for one, welcome our new electrical bacterium overlords.
    • I do too. Given enough time, they could spell out letters and words in those wires, giving us original and genuinely funny jokes to use on Slashdot. They could, perhaps, give a reasonable solution to these endless and pointless, clichéd "jokes".
      • Live Wires

        A microbiologist discovers our planet is hard-wired with electricity-producing Slashdot posters

        RICHLAND, Wash. -- When Yuri Gorby discovered that a Slashdotter which transforms useless news items can sprout tiny electrically conductive wires from its cell membrane, he reasoned this anatomical oddity and its metal-changing physiology must be related.

        A colleague who had heard Gorby's presentation at a scientific meeting later reported that he, too, was able to coax nanowires from another so

    • In Soviet Russia, electrical bacterium overlords welcome you!
  • by rtyall ( 960518 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @07:31AM (#15704234) Homepage
    This could mean we'll all get to have mobile phones that we can barely even see the screen on, because they're so small. Fuck sidekicks, nanobutton phones where it's at.
  • Because it's the opposite of what slashdot usually does...

    This has been around for at least a year, and the first group to find it was NOT PNL. It was Derek Lovely.

    OH WAIT!!! Here's the original story:
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/0 9/0348241 [slashdot.org]

    The difference here is that they have shown that the wires are conductive, and carbon based. This too is something that has been worked on for a while.
  • Just don't run a virus scan on your laptop power supply.
  • by Jsleeman ( 988390 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @07:46AM (#15704278)
    "Earth appears to be hard-wired." The Earth is a giant super computer and the answer to the Universe is 42!
    • Everyone and everythink repeating this nauseating figure (or is it a number?) over and over a-gain SHOULD (per RFC definition of should) count how many fingers one has and how many hands with those fingers are needed to create a sound effect affecting anything at all or somethink. Oh, and ponder smoke and mirrors. This is not a joke, I am simply a mad scientist and you know what follows by induction...whatever it is...let's look that up on en.wikipedia.org...BTW - you are right too or was it left? Those who
  • Imagine having bacteria in you pc, buiding and moving wires for you as it grows. You buy a pc, give it food and water and you can see it grow ;-)

    Enough kidding around, its good news, this will probably make it easier to create the tubes, and the cost of producing them will probably go down. The age of nano-tubes has arrived! (maybe?)
  • Get your bioports now.

    Wait a second, maybe we're already in the game.

  • This application can be expanded; lets think outside the box for a minute.

    First there was a lock. Then you had a guy in front of the door with a gun. Then there was encryption.

    Now, there is a deadly strain of bacteria that not only powers the server but protects it from hacking. The ultimate solution in biological protection. Order yours now.
  • Didn't we already see this demonstrated in the Futurama episode where Fry eats the sandwich from the 20th century? I mean, those were worms, but they were tiny and seemed to be rewireing Fry okay. I know I could sure use some of them worms...
    • Didn't we already see this demonstrated in the Futurama episode where Fry eats the sandwich from the 20th century? I mean, those were worms, but they were tiny and seemed to be rewireing Fry okay. I know I could sure use some of them worms...

      Now if someone tries to patent this method, Futurama will surely count as prior art!
    • The sandwich was from a space truck stop vending machine not the 20th century. It was egg salad.
      • You're right. I think I've got it mixed up with the episode of News Radio when Phil Hartman's charecter eats the who knows how old sandwich from a vending machine.
  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by StarfishOne ( 756076 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @08:32AM (#15704422)
    I wonder if we will ever see companies like Intel and AMD hiring people trained in a biological field. :)

    Pentium, Bacterium.. what's in a name? :D

    Or: the new PetriDish(tm) cpu: bringing multimedia and culture to your desktop! ;P
  • by smartalix ( 84502 ) <smartalix@yaGAUSShoo.com minus math_god> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @08:50AM (#15704490) Homepage
    Let's be careful when talking about this tech, as it is a wire-building tech, not a power generation tech. This technology will be able to create the conductive structures needed in those next-gen fuel cells and batteries, but this is not microbial fuel cell technology [electronicproducts.com].
  • ...all our technology will be based on microbe poop!
  • Tomania could do this for at least 5 years.
  • This means your chips can literally rot (or get "septic") if their encasing is breached and bacterial nanowires short the parts of it. Shure, if the short circuit current is high, no problem (at least not a permanent one) it will fuse out, but if there are shorts between high impedance points...
  • The future would revolve around bacteria shit.
    • It already does. Consider this:
      The youth are our future.
      We send youth to college.
      College revolves around booze.
      Booze is a waste product of bacteria.
      Therefore our future revolves around bacteria waste.
  • Everyone understands that there needs to be some way to control the growth and deposition of the bacteria before it's more than just random strands, right?
  • Some bathrooms are datacentres built on this technology, some people I know have beowoulf clusters of beowoulf clusters in the basin. I have contributed very little to the setup but all combined we are building some high tech bacteria. I wonder though, are we at any risk of our virus getting a virus?
  • Wow, evidence of Tnuctipun technology here on Earth.
  • infect people with bacteria, use some wireless/wave to activate bacteria in people, perhaps radiation from a computer monitor? Bacteria infects brain and is better at repairing it's DNA than human cells can... We all become wired zombies :) just a thought ;)
  • One thing I've always wondered is how conductive these wires are. Apparently, very, so what in the protein sequence makes them this way? Pretty cool that proteins can go from stretchy and strong as silk to stiff as collagen to conductive as these things are.
  • How can you refuse that intelligent design exists now, petty evolutionists!?
  • Scientist from several major biotechnology companies were seen combing downtown Manhattan and paying hot dog sellers large amounts of money for the contents of their carts...
  • Looks like a form of social cooperation. Bug with energy-supplying food but short on electron sink runs wire to bug with electron sink (like maybe more oxygen handy) but short on energy-supplying food. They split the energy. Both benefit.

    Possible stepwise evolution: Leakage of electrons from surface of bug provides some electron sink. Growing a conductive whisker improves this. Reducing metal from compunds also sinks electrons - with a side effect of producing conductive metal for wire building.
  • There was a researcher in N.C. that had a patent for using bacteria to build integrated circuits and transistors. He used a bacteria that was known to absorb metals and would align themselves with electrical fields. He "drew" the circuit patterns (like an IC layer mask) using a scanning electrom beam on the substrate. A soup with the metal laden bacteria was poured in and fixed somehow. The circuit could then be built in layers. I believe he actually demonstrated transistors and small circuits using th
  • Yuri Gorby is my brother-in-law. His work on Nanowires is revolutionary.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.