Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Sea Creatures to Provide Basis for New Electronics?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the it's-zoidbergs-time! dept.

Science 57

hakaii writes to tell us that the shells of tiny sea creatures may help to lay the foundation for new electronic devices including an improved pollution detector. "Using a chemical process that converts the shells' original silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2) into the semiconductor material silicon, researchers have created a new class of gas sensors based on the unique and intricate three-dimensional (3-D) shells produced by microscopic creatures known as diatoms. The converted shells, which retain the 3-D shape and nanoscale detail of the originals, could also be useful as battery electrodes, chemical purifiers - and in other applications requiring complex shapes that nature can produce better than humans."

cancel ×

57 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

wow... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18295532)

Imagine a beowolf cluster of these!

Re:wow... (3, Funny)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295590)

Imagine a Beowulf school of these!

Wrong joke (4, Funny)

LordEd (840443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296160)

You see, its very apparent to slashdot taggers that certain sea creatures [slashdot.org] are very useful in the mounting or operation of lasers.

OMG! (2, Funny)

telchine (719345) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296304)

OMG! If I'd known my SeaMonkeys had a use, I'd never have put them in the microwave!

so, who will patent this (4, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295548)

One more item on the list of the patent ghouls, no doubt.

We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers)
with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already
part of nature.

I watched a movie called the corporation not so long ago, (it's free to download), and it really
opened my eyes to how far we've drifted off from being 'good stewards' of the planet.

I'm happy that we are scanning nature for clues on how we can do our material science better
but I fear that a few years down the line we'll see that dow chemicals now owns it...

so, who will patent this-cynicism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296000)

"One more item on the list of the patent ghouls, no doubt.

We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors."

So what's your point? Do you even understand what patents really patent?

"I'm happy that we are scanning nature for clues on how we can do our material science better
but I fear that a few years down the line we'll see that dow chemicals now owns it..."

Thankfully patents only last ten years. Feel better?

Re:so, who will patent this-cynicism (3, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296174)

Thankfully patents only last ten years. Feel better?

Uh, where do you live where patents only last ten years?

I don't feel better no.

so, who will patent this-Utility Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296402)

"Uh, where do you live where patents only last ten years?"

Utility Model [wikipedia.org] has 6 to 10 years.

Re:so, who will patent this-Utility Model (4, Funny)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296448)

From the article you linked to:

It is very similar to the patent, but usually has a shorter term (often 6 or 10 years) and less stringent patentability requirements.
We're talking about patents, not trademarks, utility models, copyright, trade secrets or kittens.

Re:so, who will patent this (5, Insightful)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296100)

We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers) with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already part of nature.
The article itself is an excellent counter-example to your claim. Or are you suggesting that sea-shells were designed to be electronic circuits? :P Engineering genius consists of tailoring Nature to suit our needs. To a clam, a shell is simply a shell, a means of protection, a dead hulk that surrounds it. To the engineer who thought up this application, it was much more than that. It was a ready template to design micro circuitry. It is incomprehensible to me how this translates to "simply appropriating what already exists in nature". There are levels of understanding and levels of control. Sure, we can't engineer devices from scratch (i.e. from the level of subatomic particles :P), but that is hardly an issue is it? One might as well say that a factory produces paint and canvas, so the artist does nothing. While this may be true for some so-called artists *roll*, surely that's fallacious in general?

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296780)

re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

just try to have an absolutely original thought, and if you manage try to explain that
thought without having to reference the last 4,000 years of shared culture that we have.

I love this quote: we stand on the shoulders of those that went before us. And I'd like
to add to that that anything that you think you've invented because nature doesn't
use it in that particular way is waiting out there to be discovered one day. (not
in a literal sense, but more in a materials science sense, I don't expect a fish
with a 600 MHz pIII to be caught any day soon (unless it is near a garbage dump...))

Even the wheel has a direct equivalent in nature....

(when it was thought for years that that was not the case)

and a certain kind of eel had us beat to the use of electricity by a few *million* years.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296864)

Most of the rest of us are happy to use 'thoughtful application of' where you insist that 'invention' doesn't work.

As much as you are interested in quibbling over 'invention', it's a wonder that you would accuse an eel of 'using' anything.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296876)

people quibbling on slashdot ? that's unpossible.

The invention is the process ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296878)

re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

The invention can be the process by which a sea shell becomes an electronic circuit.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

mollog (841386) | more than 7 years ago | (#18297650)

re-using something that already exists for another use is not an invention.

Was this your quote? I don't think you're right. I'm pretty sure the patent office will issue a patent for a new use of an existing invention. That would imply that a new use is an 'invention'.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298296)

Even the wheel has a direct equivalent in nature.... (when it was thought for years that that was not the case)
I would love to know what that equivalent is. I really can't guess what it might be. Don't you dare leave us in suspense at this point! =D

As far as the eel example goes, it's a bad one as you can argue that only for the invention of the electric chair. I can't imagine any other "use" that the eel puts it's electricity to :P. As I've said before, so I say again - invention is not about creation from nothingness; you have that mistaken with genesis (*snicker*; sorry =D); rather it is about control. There's been a couple of nice responses in this sub-thread already so I won't belabor the point, but the difference between invention and appropriation is the difference between the work in TFA and holding a seashell to your ear to hear the ocean ;-). 'Nuff said =D.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298742)

if you're trying to link me with creationism you're so far off base it's not even funny.

as for the wheel reference, there you go:

http://www.newscientist.com/backpage.ns?id=mg18524 852.700 [newscientist.com]

I'll make it simple:

I'm against patents.

of any kind.

But I'm *especially* against patents of anything that you find in nature and
I think that the general rule should be that if you can find a close analogy
of any structure, device, process, binary sequence (genes) or creature in
nature then you should not be able to patent it at all.

That doesn't mean we should not be looking at nature for ideas and useful
bits & pieces, it just means that when you do *discover* those that you are
not able to go out and stick your name on it and bar everybody else from
using the same without paying you, the original discoverer a royalty.

so, who will complain about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299542)

"I'll make it simple:

I'm against patents.

of any kind."

Apparently your ethics aren't so pure that you'll stop using the products that result from patents.

"That doesn't mean we should not be looking at nature for ideas and useful
bits & pieces, it just means that when you do *discover* those that you are
not able to go out and stick your name on it and bar everybody else from
using the same without paying you, the original discoverer a royalty."

Obviously in your world there is no civilization.

Fortunately you're just one lone nut on slashdot. Regardless of the abuse of IP, the fundamental idea behind IP is still sound.

Re:so, who will complain about this (1)

cyclop (780354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299872)

Here is another "nut".

Apparently your ethics aren't so pure that you'll stop using the products that result from patents.

Well, I have no choice. Should I suicide? If I'm opposed to my government, should I go to live on an iceberg? This is a moronic argument. In the world there are a lot of good, patented products. There is nothing bad about these products in themselves: what's bad is that they are patented (at least per the current definition of "patent").

Obviously in your world there is no civilization.

In "my world" there is a civilization where you can use every intellectual product for free if you do so 1)respecting proper attribution 2)not exploiting it commercially. And it would be a damn rich and advanced world.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18306076)

if you're trying to link me with creationism you're so far off base it's not even funny.
I try to mock creationism every opportunity I get. Nothing to do with you =D. Please don't take it personally. Maybe the

(*snicker*; sorry =D)
wasn't explicit enough in my post. *shrug*

I'm against patents. of any kind.

That doesn't mean we should not be looking at nature for ideas and useful bits & pieces, it just means that when you do *discover* those that you are not able to go out and stick your name on it and bar everybody else from using the same without paying you, the original discoverer a royalty.

And thanks for the article about the bacterial wheels. It's a neat story and it makes you wonder whether the original caveman inventor of the wheel would still get his patent. It would be unfair not to as we couldn't really look at bacteria for (possibly) millennia after it was invented by humans. Does that mean that if someone invented a device with no prior knowledge of an existing analogue in nature, you would simply have to hunt for one (without going to the trouble and possesisng the creativity to do the research yourself) and declare his patent void? IN fact, I would say that patents were a bad idea at the dawn of the scientific age because you could invent stuff quite easily without a lot of specialized resources. Hence the flurry of "garage invention" patents and horrible spots on late night cable tv =D. Today, any serious invention (no matter how mundane it may seem you) usually requires a ton of investment to begin with. So what if they exploit what's already present in nature? I'm sure the bacteria don't mind and neither do the sensible molluscs ;-).

I probably shouldn't continue this one as this is probably not the place for a "patent debate" and IANAPL =D, but I am curious as to why people would even bother to invent stuff then. Where's the incentive to write good software if any big corporation could simply grab the first copy you sell, reverse engineer it and market it themselves? This is true of any product really, not just software.

The point is, if you do away with patents, the only people who can profit (or heck, even break even) are the ones who can do research, develop a product AND make it market-ready as soon as possible. We know that the resources you need for the two (R&D vs. commercialisation) are quite different. Of course, I really have no problem with dramatically shortening the life of a patent. Quite a reasonable precaution IMO against monopolies. Go generic! =D

Further, lack of a patent system WILL lead to a highly paranoid research community who cannot afford to disclose ANY information about anything until their product hits the market and EVEN AFTERWARDS.

Not to mention the extra junk that manufacturers will need to stuff into their products in order to make it secure from reverse-engineering. This to me is the biggest problem I can envison. Industries WILL do this. It's the only way they can keep their margins. Look forward to the warranty stickers being changed from "removing this will void warranty" to "removing this will melt the processor". Companies will have to stop making things like PCs modular - too much stuff out in the open. Look forward to more idiotic devices like the ones Braun makes where everything is molded shut and no screw access. I can't even get into my stupid electric toothbrush to try to fix it (well, tinker with it at least) without using a saw :p.

Do we really need all that grief? I realize there are serious problems with the patent laws at the moment, but really, forgive me for being trite, throwing the baby out with the bath water is hardly a solution ;-). Oh I should add, I find it inevitable that with the dissolution of the patent system, we will simply be presented with a set of anti-reverse-engineering laws. More legislation. Enforcement issues. The politicians have a ball. Lawyers get more legalese to play with and make merry. Ahh, progress. LOL. So much for not wanting to continue it right here =D. Well, what can ya do?

A final note to Jacquesm: I was trying sincerely to think these points up. Any sarcasm was simply a matter of style. I'd love to hear your rebuttal.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18306124)

Sorry to double-post but I just saw the quotation of the day (or whatever it is) on the bottom of the Slashdot page.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and think what nobody else has thought.
Hmm, seems to fit my previous post =D. The patent is a reward for seeing the possibilities in a naturally occuring phenomenon. Hindsight is 20/20 and the devil is in the details. (Damn, call me Mr. Cliche today =D).

Re:so, who will patent this (3, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296148)

I watched a movie called the corporation not so long ago,

Torrent (via mininova) available here [mininova.org] . Everyone watch this - it's great.

Re:so, who will patent this (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298794)

We are mostly discoverers, much less inventors. Every now and then we come up (in large numbers)
with stuff that nature has not yet thought of, but for the most part our 'inventions' are already
part of nature.

Says the man who arrived at his air-conditioned office using a four wheeled car powered by an internal combustion engine.

Yea, right. We got our inspiration on the myriad wild compressed-gas-heat-exchanging hydrocarbon-burning wheeled beast that roamed the fields of yore. And we used our Von Neumann silicon brains to refine those patterns we merely found in nature.

Free The Scallops! (4, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295582)

For far too long, the oceans crustaceans have been forced to live in servitude, with the knowledge of impending death looming over their tiny spineless brains. Aquatic mollusks existing purely to create better speakers, gas sensors, and the mighty Kraken slain and now used to broadcast XM Radio to Illinois. You've gone too far!


Seriously, though, this is sort of cool. When can we see shell bikinis with embedded iPods?

Re:Free The Scallops! (2, Funny)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296730)

Personally, I'm a lot more concerned for the scallop's smaller cousin. Sure, everybody's all about freeing the scallops, but what about the mallocs?

They get totally ignored and end up leaking toxic stuff all over the place.

So everyone, free the mallocs to stop the leaks!

Obligatory Futurama (5, Funny)

Loadmaster (720754) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295626)

Zoidberg: Hooray, I'm useful! I'm having a wonderful time.

Swi

New electronics? (2, Interesting)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295648)

The driving force of consumer CPU advancements has always been the gamers.

I don't think the uber gamers who demand the fastest processors will want CPUs made out of snails.

Re:New electronics? (4, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296010)

You must be new here. Gamers will shell out whatever it takes to get the fastest processor.

Re:New electronics? (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296050)

Whether is a fin, or 2000 clams, only the best to show off are muscles!

Re:New electronics? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296090)

I don't think the uber gamers who demand the fastest processors will want CPUs made out of snails.

      I can refute your argument quite simply by pointing out the amount of gamers that use "uber fast, streamlined" Microsoft Windows as an OS. A CPU made out of snails would be trivial compared to THAT.

Re:New electronics? (1)

loganrapp (975327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296842)

Gamers use the OS that plays the most games!

Shocking!

Re:New electronics? (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296408)

Hey, if militaries and engineers are happy to use diatoms in their dynamite, who are gamers to question diatoms in their CPUs?

Is there anything they can't do? (4, Funny)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295698)

Appetizers. Cartoon characters. And now, electronics!

Re:Is there anything they can't do? (1)

muhadeeb (1062676) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296934)

Beware of Shellfish Unions affliated with the AFL-CIO

diatoms (2, Informative)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295706)

Diatoms, is there anything they cant do? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth [wikipedia.org]

Oh please oh please oh please (4, Funny)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295852)

Please use sea monkeys. The marketing potential is enormous!

Re:Oh please oh please oh please (1)

WindowsIsForArseWipe (990338) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296006)

wtf did you have to bring web browsers into this for?

lasers (3, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295952)

laser beams, gimme fricking laser beams on them...

used to filter beer (2, Informative)

daniel23 (605413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18295998)

I stumbled over some industrial use of diatom earth quite some time ago, things like adding the stuff to color mixtures to give it the right viscosity. But the best is: it's used to filter the yeast out of beer. All those surreal 3d structures of the diatom skeleton (and TFA pictured an extremly boring one, they have thorns and what not) help to catch the yeast cells when thrown into a tank of mature beer, the diatom earth ("sand") slowly sinks to the bottom and takes most of the yeast cells with it.
The beer is pumped off and put into bottles afterwards and the remaining goo goes to the waste or recycling. Which has to happen soon, if they wait to long (or in summer), the yeast sort of explodes running over the container it was put in and is hard to remove...

Sea Creatures? (1)

Nutty_Irishman (729030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296040)

We all know this is just a company ploy forcing us to upgrade our fresh water cooled systems to sea creature tolerant salt water cooled systems!

Re:Sea Creatures? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296064)

upgrade our fresh water cooled systems to sea creature tolerant salt water cooled systems!

      I don't know many multi-celled sea creatures tolerant of 80 degree (C) sea-water. But then again, I run AMD... and I love clam chowder!!! 3. Profit???

Liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296104)

Any true lover of Clam Chowder would know its true name: Clam Chowda'

I love it too.

Die, sea creatures, die! (0, Flamebait)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296058)

Excellent! Another natural resource AND lifeform that we can pillage and destroy! And just when we were starting to lose hope and get bored.

Those damn sea creatures have had it too easy for far too long anyway, just lounging around and not doing anything useful for anyone. I say it's high time we round them all up and turn them into something productive!

Re:Die, sea creatures, die! (1)

Weebo (1070712) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296300)

Poor little critters :(

Re:Die, sea creatures, die! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296394)

Where does the 'pillage and destroy' bit come in to this?
I mean, it's not as though they are going to trawl the oceans and then sort out each kind of diatom into a separate pile.

I can see it now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296098)

Finding Nemo II: The search for more batteries.

Rama (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296514)

"and in other applications requiring complex shapes that nature can produce better than humans."

That last bit reminds me of the Rama Series (Arthur C. Clark / Gentry Lee ) and how the third species genetically engineered creatures to fill the needs of the colony.

Re:Rama (1)

bjackson1 (953136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301902)

I think you are looking for Octospiders. I've always found his conjecture in his book that warfare is the only thing that has truly pushed human civilization, whereas all of the technology of the Octospider's was developed to counter the need for warfare.

Squid (2, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18296598)

It's a proxy server. This is not news.

Obligatory Jessica Simpson Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18296772)

Is chicken a sea creature?

You fail 1t (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18297006)

Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18297454)

I have patented a means of harvesting these creatures using sixpack rings. I call it the Sea Sweeper!
M. Burns

Re:Patent (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299952)

You mean the patented Burns Omni-Net(tm)? It sweeps the sea clean!

Tomorrows news: (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298458)

Underwater shellfish near extinction. 'doh!
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>