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Terminator Inspires Scientists to Create Bionic Particles that Boost Biofuel Production

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A scene from the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the MachinesI never thought I would say this, but the Terminator and his fictional cyborg friends, have finally done something good, for real. They inspired a team of scientists from University of Michigan and University of Pittsburgh to develop a new type of bionic particles, by mixing organic matter and semiconductors. The winning combination could lead the way to improvements in the efficiency of conversion of light into biofuels.

The bionic particles are a unique mix between cadmium telluride, a substance that makes solar panels absorb light, and the natural semiconductor cytochrome C, the protein boost that transport of electrons gets during the process of photosynthesis in plants. According to the team, although they have only developed a tiny prototype particles, the blend between the two substances not only mimics the natural process of plants converting sunlight into energy, but also gives it a boost.

Apparently, the idea came to Sharon Glotzer, one of the researchers involved in the study, and her collegue Nicholas Kotov, as they observed how the Terminator (model T-1000 to be exact) is strong, resilient and flexible at the same time, thanks to a unique blend of materials. Similarly, the new bionic particles are comprised of a blended enzymes, which allow renewal and self-replication.  The team sees their invention as the base for development of new-generation bionic systems, that are made of both organic and inorganic particles.  In the eyes of the scientists, the new particles can be easily used in biological building blocks, and something a bit more futuristic, yet very cool, inorganic machines.

Glotzer and team see their invention being implemented in all future models of cyborg robots. I am not sure if the aim of the study was to improve the process of producing biofuels, or to shape up the new Terminator, but well, whatever the purpose was, the final result was definitely brilliant and cool at the same time.

The study was fully supported by the Department of EnergyNational Science Foundation, Army Research Office, Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health, and is expected to appear soon in Nature Communications.

Image (c) Observer

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