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Magnetic Bacteria May Help Build Future Bio-Computers

BBC News (05/07/12)

Researchers at the University of Leeds and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology are studying a bacterium called Magnetospirilllum magneticum and the possibility of using it in future computer systems.  The bacteria eats iron, and in the process creates tiny magnets inside themselves, similar to those in PC hard drives.  The researchers say their work could lead to the creation of much faster hard drives.  When the bacteria ingest iron, proteins inside their bodies interact with it to produce tiny crystals of the mineral magnetite, the most magnetic mineral on Earth.  In addition to using microorganisms to produce magnets, the researchers also created tiny electrical wires from living organisms.  The researchers have created nanoscale-size tubes made from the membrane of cells and a protein present in human lipid molecules.  “These biological wires can have electrical resistance and can transfer information from one set of cells inside a bio-computer to all the other cells,” says Tokyo University researcher Masayoshi Tanaka.

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