Nano Science and Technology Institute

Bacterial builders on site for computer construction

Forget computer viruses - magnet-making bacteria could be used to build tomorrow’s computers with larger hard drives and speedier connections.

Story content courtesy of University of Leeds, UK

Researchers at the University of Leeds have used a type of bacterium which ‘eats’ iron to create a surface of magnets, similar to those found in traditional hard drives, and wiring. As the bacterium ingests the iron it creates tiny magnets within itself. The team has also begun to understand how the proteins inside these bacteria collect, shape and position these “nanomagnets” inside their cells and can now replicate this behaviour outside the bacteria.

Led by Dr Sarah Staniland from the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, in a longstanding collaboration with the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the team hope to develop a ‘bottom-up’ approach for creating cheaper, more environmentally-friendly electronics of the future.

The research group and the team at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, led by Prof. Tadashi Matsunaga, now plan to examine the biological processes behind the behaviour of these proteins. “Our aim is to develop a toolkit of proteins and chemicals which could be used to grow computer components from scratch,” adds Dr Staniland.

This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Royal Society’s Newton International Fellowships Scheme.

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