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Vol. 7, No. 2. February 29, 2012
ISSN 1932-3018

Magnet making bacteria
Positioning this technology in the
Functionality Grid
Reformatted from: Van Wyk, Rias J: Technology - A Unifying Code, 2004, SMG, Cape Town, p.34. Based on: Ropohl, Gunter: Eine Systemtheorie der Technik, 1979, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna, p.178.
This Newsbrief deals with a new way of producing magnets. More specifically it describe a bacterium that does this task. By imitating the bacterium it is possible to attain smaller magnetic grains. In terms of the Atlas of Technology it is concerned with the processing of matter (M).
Producers of products like hard disc drives require ever smaller magnetic domains to achieve the functionality aimed for. This process reflects the key technology trend of "use less space" to store a single bit.
To make nano-sized magnetic grains requires exceptional processing skills and is becoming increasingly difficult. In a new approach to create tiny magnets, researchers have investigated the behavior of magnet producing bacteria.
"A team from the UK's University of Leeds and Japan's Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have used microbes that eat iron. As they ingest the iron, the microbes create tiny magnets inside themselves, similar to those in hard drives." The researchers used the bacterium Magnetospirillum magneticum. This bacterium ingests iron, which through the action of proteins is turned into magnetite, a most powerful magnetic material. The next step was to dispense with the bacteria. ("Magnetic bacteria may help build future bio-computers" BBC News: Technology, 7 May 2012
The process is in the laboratory phase and, on the NASA nine point scale, is at a technology readiness level (TRL) of about 4. Technology explorers should monitor the proliferation of the production process, and its use in other fields of application.

© Rias J. van Wyk, 2013. Editor.