The particles, a blend of inorganic technology and organic matter, are designed not to advance a machine race but rather to create biofuels
In what might come to be seen as a moment of apocalyptic hubris, scientists at universities in Michigan and Pittsburgh in the US have pioneered bionic particles – a blend of organic matter with semiconductors – that they describe as being “inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator”.
The particles, currently microscopic but perhaps with the potential to scale up to nightmarish Austrian-accented machines, are a blend of cadmium telluride, which is used in solar panels to absorb sunlight, and cytochrome C, a plant protein that helps transports electrons during photosynthesis. Blended together, the new particles “recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel”.
The hope is that the particles will aid a more efficient conversion of sunlight into biofuels, rather than setting off a chain of events that leads to Skynet being switched on. “We merged biological and inorganic in a way that leverages the attributes of both to get something better than either alone,” said Sharon Glotzer, who headed up the research, alluding to the lethal blend of malleability and strength inherent to the T-1000 model of Terminator.
Their work shows that by creating the right size of particle along with the right mix of enzymes, the new blended organic-inorganic particles can renew and self-replicate – in theory allowing a future race of cyborgs to repair itself and thwart a human resistance movement. “These design principles can be used to guide future designs for other bionic systems, starting from the primary building blocks of biological organisms and inorganic machines,” added fellow leader Nicholas Kotov, who perhaps hasn’t seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. “It is very possible that Terminators of the future would need to be constructed starting from such building blocks.” The team are unfortunately not yet working on a time-travel device.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014