Researchers from the UK and Tokyo are imitating iron-eating microbes to create bio-computer components.

Researchers from the UK and Tokyo are imitating iron-eating microbes to create bio-computer components.

Technology is shrinking, and nearing its physical limit. Until it reaches that final stage however, scientists are looking for new ways to create tinier computer components, which are becoming increasingly difficult to create using conventional methods. A team from UK's University of Leeds and Japan's Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology are seeking the answer in bacteria that ingest iron.

"We are quickly reaching the limits of traditional electronic manufacturing as computer components get smaller." said Dr. Sarah Staniland of the University of Leeds,"The machines we've traditionally used to build them are clumsy at such small scales." She went on to say that "Nature has provided us with the perfect tool to [deal with] this problem."

Magnetospirilllum magneticum, the bacteria being used in the study, generally lives in watery environments like ponds and lakes. Staying deep below the surface in oxygen poor water, they align themselves with earth’s magnetic pull, swimming up and down searching for a preferred concentration of oxygen.

When these organisms ingest iron, proteins interact with the element inside of them to create crystals of the world's most powerful magnetic material – magnetite.

Researchers, having spent a great deal of time studying how this process works in the bacteria, have successfully imitated it themselves, literally 'growing' magnets. Magnets are important components of computer hard drives, and this new technology could potentially create much faster ones.

The researchers have also managed to produce biological "wires" using the membranes of cells. In the future these membrane wires could be used in place of traditional metal wires to transfer information through computers, and could potentially be used in surgery as well.

Nature has been a constant source of inspiration for human innovation throughout the centuries, inspiring flight, the invention of Velcro, and other inventions in the making, such as possible cancer fighting nanoparticles. Thus, while scientists work to create power quantum computers, nature-inspired designs and materials may be the course of traditional computer technology.

Source: BBC News