Today, we are used to seeing biotech being used to grow replacement human organs and houses that grow themselves.
Now, Chinese technology giant International Biotechnology Manufacturing (known as ChiBM) has released DIY kits for producing consumer appliances from smart polymers and electroDNA – at home.
Using designer DNA and nano-particles of silver, gold and carbon, these kits produce working devices in a matter of weeks. “The key to making this a user-controlled process,” said Avery Wong, Chief Architect at ChiBM, “was to provide the materials in micro granules, with patented enzymes to manufacture the nano-particles, which are then in turn consumed by the DNA assemblers. So the system is entirely self-contained, and completely safe.”
Admittedly the kits are limited to devices that have no moving parts, only membrane touch pads and organic LED displays. However, a built-in wireless connection means they are easily assimilated into in-home and personal networks.
Grow your own appliances – just the thing for a rainy day at home. But, what this will do to the traditional retail supply chain in the long-term is still not fully understood.
Read the full story in the detailed Analysis/Synthesis section – for subscribers only
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Technology enthusiasts have always been keen on DIY. Remember HAM radio, Citizen Band, and science kits that let you build up your own circuits? Kit computers followed, and even today, audiophiles and garage entrepreneurs tinker with home-built speaker and amplifier systems, while teenagers ‘mod’ their gaming computers. Backyard mechanics build unique hot-rods, and street racers modify their sports cars with any number of DIY gadgets. The motivation is often economic, but there is also the desire to have a unique, individual, and even superior product.
But the tinkertoys of tomorrow will be more organic, and use nano-particles instead of nuts and bolts. As the desire to miniaturize components reaches the molecular level, so cellular structures, organisms and smart molecules like DNA become the building blocks for electronic engineers. At the nano level, things are too small to manipulate effectively by mechanical means, and chemical and organic processes take over. Now DIY enthusiasts can ‘grow’ their own individualized gadgets.
2003: DNA transistors self-assemble>
Scientists build molecular circuits by using enzymes to coat strands of DNA with silver and gold. Israeli scientists harness the construction capabilities of DNA and the electronic properties of carbon nanotubes to create self-assembling nano-transistors.
2004: Spinach pumps up your power>
American scientists discover a way to trap the power of spinach to run laptop computers and cellular phones. Researchers at MIT, the University of Tennessee, the US Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA are converting the energy of photosynthesis to extend the life of batteries used in portable electronic devices. “This really shows that there is a way of using biologically produced molecules and coupling them directly into applied electronic circuitry,” said Barry Bruce of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and one of the scientists working on the project. “This opens up a gateway for applied application, whether you want to make DNA wires or enzymatically based reactor cells.”
2005: Playing with genetic circuits>
Scientists start to tinker with a new kind of circuitry. Instead of electronic components, they wire together genes, building ‘circuits’ and injecting them into living organisms. In a typical genetic circuit a certain chemical might trigger one gene to act as a toggle switch, turning on another gene that makes a bacterium glow. A second chemical might then trigger a third gene, which flips the first one off. Scientists can even program cell colonies to grow into circles or heart-shaped patterns.
2008: Organic Memory
Molecular memory is developed that ‘grows’ in a Petri dish. Using techniques perfected by Nantero and Matrix, nano-scale RAM grows both laterally and vertically to produce extremely high density non-volatile memory chips.
2009: Printable Displays
Print your own LCD display: Using a special cellulose substrate instead of paper, and organoleptic ‘inks’, bubble jet printers build up high resolution displays for computers and flat-panel TVs. The breakthrough lies not only in the ability to easily produce large, flexible displays but also in the cost – a fraction of the price of traditional methods.
2013: Printed Pathways
Printed circuits just took on a whole new meaning. Now you can print DNA pathways which are immersed in enzyme solutions and ‘grow’ into high density logic and memory circuits. This does for electro-biotech manufacturing what photolithography did for silicon semi-conductors.
Nano-particles become the new raw materials of industry. Bucky balls and nano-tubes are joined by glitter balls and glow-worms as metallic elements enter the catalogue. Based on carbon, silver, gold, platinum and titanium, these particles are priced at many thousands of times their weight, but are only needed in minute quantities.
2019: Smart Cellulose
Scientists perfect the process for controlling cellulose structures with designer DNA. Now it is possible to ‘grow’ boxes and containers, even irregularly shaped frameworks and lattice-like matrixes of any size. DNA manipulation can control strength, durability, flexibility and conductive properties. This is a breakthrough for manufacturing micro components as well as large structures like buildings.
2021: Do-It-Yourself DNA>
ChiBM brings it all together: Smart cellulose, designer DNA, organic memory and circuits, nano-particles and YOU. Now you can “grow your own” smartphone, mediacenter or playstation.