Image of the bacteria in question (via University of Leeds)
Everybody knows that getting a computer virus is an absolute nightmare, analogous to their real-life counterparts. How about the other way around, using real life in the computer world? That’s precisely what a team of researchers from the University of Leeds has in mind. What if you could harness real-life bacteria to make the data-storage devices bigger and faster? The team, led by Dr. Sarah Staniland, has found that when a certain protein is used with the bacterium Magnetospirillium Magneticum it eats iron leaving behind a surface of magnates similar to those found in hard-drives. The team succeeded in creating a magnetic array using a process, not unlike potato-printing (potato art used like an ink stamp). Using the stamping process, the team deposited the bacterium onto half of a checker-patterned surface of gold. Which was then placed in a specialized solution with iron at a temperature of 80o C. They found that the portion of the gold surface that had the bacterium stamped onto it formed nano-sized crystals of magnetite. While this process is an interesting feat in its own right, the team wants to reduce the size and pattern of the magnetite crystals into one single array which would allow for each nano-magnet to hold 1-bit of information for use in future hard-drives.
On a similar note, Dr. Masayoshi Tanaka from the University of Agriculture and Technology has used bacteria to create a type of nano bio-wiring that might be used to create a biocomputer. To create the tiny wires Dr. Tanaka used a different protein from that of Dr. Staniland’s, combined with copper indium sulphide and zinc sulphide that make magnetic ‘quantum-dots’ that conduct electricity. The nano-wires are encased in a shroud of fat molecules known as lipids (I’m not kidding). Dr. Tanaka states that it’s possible to tune the nano-wires to have specific electrical resistances and could be used in the future to ‘grow’ computer components from scratch!