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Worms: The latest in semiconductor manufacturing

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Worms: The latest in semiconductor manufacturing
While semiconductors are not the first thing you envision when you think of worms, it maybe should not come as a surprise when nature shows just how much of a genius it is.

Scientists at King’s College in London have discovered that worms manufacture tiny semiconductors. They made this discovery when they fed the ordinary red worm soil laced with metals. The worms would produce quantum dots which are nano-sized semiconductors found in solar cells and LED technology.

When the worms ate their way through the soil, their ability to detoxify their own bodies enabled them to produce proteins which would eventually transport the metals out of the body. The soil that the scientists used was laced with cadmium chloride and sodium tellurite. The researchers knew that the worms would be able to handle the cadmium chloride, but there were not sure what would happen with the sodium tellurite. The worms ended up producing tiny crystalline particles of cadmium telluride – quantum dots measuring nanometers across.

Before you venture out and start buying futures contracts on worm related commodities, you should know that the scientists do not see this as a manufacturing opportunity. However, it does reveal that materials can be synthesized, solid-state chemistry, can occur in a living animal. The end product is not the same quality as what is produced through current manufacturing processes either.

What this does show however is that Mother Nature has a never ending collection of tricks up her sleeve and with discoveries like this, it is usually only a matter of time before someone finds a way to commercialize the idea, whether it is for cadmium telluride, or perhaps other naturally synthesized compounds which may find applications in other areas of technology. Meanwhile, we anxiously await the day when we can plant an old Samsung Galaxy S II in the soil and the worms push out a shiny new Galaxy S IV or Note II to harvest.

source: NBC News

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