Yesterday I reported the news of using CAD system to design human organs and tissues.
Today I run into another design approach, this time to create smart materials that leverages on bio and computing.
Researchers at Aalto University, one of our partner at ICT LABS, have devised a way to use virus and proteins to guide the creation of super-latteces, structures that can have specific properties and that can be designed to have those properties.
Because of that one can design a super-lattice that respond to the presence a a given substance, thus creating a sensor, or a structure that can manipulate light in a specific way thus becoming useful in optical devices and so on.
Viruses have a way of crystallising that is not practical in our artefacts. It is thanks to the specific crystallisation structure that they are able to work like robots, identify a target cell and “dock” exactly on that part of the cell where they can inject their genome for duplication.
Cells have similar working scheme, in the sense than in the chaos of substances floating within a cell membrane (like having a bag full of hundreds of thousands of different things) proteins can be built by using RNA as a blueprint and to pick up the right molecules in the right sequence from the billions of floating molecules.
What researchers wanted was to use this capability of virus, and cells, to create the lattice they wanted. It is a bit like using bio machine to create artefacts.
They have published their result on the Nature Journal, showing that indeed it is possible to exploit virus to this goal, programming them to do what they want them to do.
So far it is just a demonstration that in principle one could build a cruise ship, although what they built is just a rowing boat… But in the course of this decade we can expect to see these approaches to become part of the industrial process of manufacturing. And that is going to change the world. ICT is one of the enabler, bio is fast becoming a reference for implementation and manufacturing is creating smart materials by building them up one molecule at the time (Nanotechnology). All together these three forces will reshape the world in the next decade.