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March 9th, 2007
Nanotechnology, ocean creatures and electronics
The three-dimensional shells of tiny ocean creatures could provide the foundation for novel electronic devices, including gas sensors able to detect pollution faster and more efficiently than conventional devices.
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.
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