Diatoms Nanotechnology-Shell Game

music

ambience: ocean, sound file

They’re among the world’s oldest and most ubiquitous creatures, and they may soon be part of one of the newest branches of science and technology. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Diatoms are primitive, single-celled algae. They’re found bodies of fresh water and they’re found in the oceans. In fact, the world’s ocean is one big soup full of diatoms. All life in the ocean depends on them because they’re at the base of the food chain. Like plants, diatoms make their own food from sunlight and carbon dioxide, and the carbon in their bodies becomes food for other marine creatures in the ocean.”

Dr. Greg Rorrer is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He and his colleagues are particularly interested in the diatoms’ shells.

“The diatom shell itself is made of silica. Beach sand and glass are common forms of silica. The shell is made of silica nanoparticles precisely assembled together like bricks in a building. You could say that these nanosized glass bricks form together to make a microscopic glass house that houses the diatom cell itself.”

Dr. Rorrer thinks that diatoms could play a crucial role in the emerging science of nanotechnology, which uses microscopic bits of matter to create more resilient materials and innovative devices, such as a new way to administer drugs that can treat cancer.

“As a biochemical engineer, I am interested in diatoms because I want to use them to make semiconductor materials. These semiconductor materials are ordered at the nanoscale, at this very tiny scale, and it’s my hope that these semiconductor materials will have unique properties of value to the semiconductor and microelectronics industries.”

We’ll hear how diatoms are transformed into semiconductor materials in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation

music

Diatoms Nanotechnology-Shell Game

Diatoms are among the world's oldest and most ubiquitous creatures, and they may soon be an important part of one of the newest branches of science and technology.
Air Date:08/10/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

music

ambience: ocean, sound file

They're among the world's oldest and most ubiquitous creatures, and they may soon be part of one of the newest branches of science and technology. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"Diatoms are primitive, single-celled algae. They're found bodies of fresh water and they're found in the oceans. In fact, the world's ocean is one big soup full of diatoms. All life in the ocean depends on them because they're at the base of the food chain. Like plants, diatoms make their own food from sunlight and carbon dioxide, and the carbon in their bodies becomes food for other marine creatures in the ocean."

Dr. Greg Rorrer is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He and his colleagues are particularly interested in the diatoms' shells.

"The diatom shell itself is made of silica. Beach sand and glass are common forms of silica. The shell is made of silica nanoparticles precisely assembled together like bricks in a building. You could say that these nanosized glass bricks form together to make a microscopic glass house that houses the diatom cell itself."

Dr. Rorrer thinks that diatoms could play a crucial role in the emerging science of nanotechnology, which uses microscopic bits of matter to create more resilient materials and innovative devices, such as a new way to administer drugs that can treat cancer.

"As a biochemical engineer, I am interested in diatoms because I want to use them to make semiconductor materials. These semiconductor materials are ordered at the nanoscale, at this very tiny scale, and it's my hope that these semiconductor materials will have unique properties of value to the semiconductor and microelectronics industries."

We'll hear how diatoms are transformed into semiconductor materials in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation

music