Researchers have "evolved" new semiconducting structures in a process that could someday lead to higher-performing computer chips. The UC Santa Barbara bio/nano-engineers amplified the DNA of silicateins, the proteins that guide the formation of marine sponges' silica skeletons. The natural mutations produced by that process resulted in silicateins genetically encoded to produce different templates for silica skeletons. From UCSB:
With the creation of a silicate in gene pool, through what (researcher Luke) Bawazer only somewhat euphemistically calls "molecular sex" –– the combination and recombination of various silicate in genetic materials –– the scientists were able to create a multitude of silicateins, and then select for the ones with desired properties…
By changing the laboratory-controlled environments in which directed evolution occurs, it will be possible to evolve materials with specific capacities, like high performance in an evolved solar cell, for example.
"Here we've demonstrated the evolution of material structure; I'd like to take it a step further and evolve material performance in a functional device," said Bawazer.
"Evolution could generate new semiconducting structures" (New Scientist)