Magnetic Bacteria in Biocomputing Devices

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Researchers at Leeds University in the UK and Tokyo A&T University are manipulating Magnetospirrillum Magneticum bacteria for their magnetic properties to produce nano-magnets in the next generation of micro hard drives.  The manufacturing process involves using the bacteria’s natural process of mineralizing proteins to create magnetite grains of similar size and distribution.  These grains are then deposited on a patterned surface via the bacteria’s biomineralization process in combination with soft-lithography and protein immobilization techniques.  Essentially, the bacteria acts as a magnetite printer of sorts. 

The finished arrays can then be used in solid-state hard drives to increase storage, decrease size, and increase hard drive durability.  Additionally, this novel manufacturing process allows for the creation of these magnetite arrays with the use of fewer harsh chemicals while reducing manufacturing temperature and increasing quality control.  Hard drives created with this technology will be able to achieve data densities of about eight terabits per square inch, almost three times higher than the maximum achieved by current semiconductor technology.

DOI: 10.1002/smll.201101627


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This technology will enhance data storage capability of computer and communication devices.





Benefit Summary: 

This disruptive technology has the potential to usher in a new era of biomanufactured and biocomputing devices for both processing and data storage; improving the worker health and environmental quality during the manufacturing process.


Risk Summary: 

Magnetospirrillum Magneticum bacteria has no known pathogenic effects, occurs naturally in abundance, and is seen as ecologically benign by the scientific community. There is no known risk associated with the bacteria and its production of magnetite nanoparticles. Any risk would be found in the fabrication process of the ICT hardware, which would be similar to semiconductor manufacturing. Additionally, the soft-lithography and protein immobilization techniques used to manufacture the chips does not use harsh chemicals, further reducing environmental and human health risks associated with this technology.

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