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Army awards up to $50 million to establish Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies

the country's defense as is a well-equipped Army," said Campbell.

Morse points out that the synthesis of materials in biology necessarily occurs under conditions amenable to life in contrast to many present manufacturing processes, which entail extraordinary conditions of temperature or deleterious chemicals or a sterile environment.

Morse is well known for discoveries that helped inaugurate the emerging field of nano-biomolecular and biomimetic materials synthesis that is illustrative of the new Institute's research direction. One example is the lessons for semiconductor fabrication learned from a marine sponge.

Silicon is an element like carbon that does not exist in nature in its free form, but is normally present in rocks as silica (i.e., sand in one form, glass in another). The rocks are melted and milled to extract the silicon that is then made into computer chips or incorporated into silicon-based polymers analogous to the more familiar carbon-based polymers. Silicon--the prime constituent of the computer chip and the preeminent element of the information age--behaves like carbon in the way its atoms connect.

Morse and his colleagues discovered that the fiberglass silica needles of a marine sponge are made via a protein, which acts as both an enzyme-catalyst and a template for growth. That discovery has now been adapted to make non-biological semiconducting and photovoltaic materials.

Said Morse, "Our research shows that biomolecular recognition and enzymatic catalysis, which evolved over millennia for the world of carbon-based materials, can be harnessed and used productively with silicon-based materials. One of ICB's missions is to take advantage of alternative pathways for synthesis that have been honed by millennia of selection.

"Our team includes the world's leaders in the discoveries of these underlying molecular mechanisms in nano-bio-fabrication," said Morse. "Our aim is to integrate work at the t
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Contact: Jacquelyn Savani
jsavani@engineering.ucsb.edu
805-893-4301
University of California, Santa Barbara - Engineering
27-Aug-2003


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