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Proceedings Article

Diatoms in space: testing prospects for reliable diatom nanotechnology in microgravity

[+] Author Affiliations
Richard Gordon, Beatriz E. Lerner

Univ. of Manitoba (Canada)

Richard B. Hoover


Jack A. Tuszynski

Univ. of Alberta (Canada)

Javier de Luis

Payload Systems Inc.

Philip J. Camp

Univ. of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)

Mary Ann Tiffany

San Diego State Univ.

Stephen S. Nagy

Montana Diatoms

Mostafa Fayek

University of Manitoba (Canada)

Pascal J. Lopez

Ecole Normale Supérieure (France)

Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 66940V (October 01, 2007); doi:10.1117/12.737051
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From Conference Volume 6694

  • Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X
  • Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies
  • San Diego, CA | August 26, 2007


The worldwide effort to grow nanotechnology, rather than use lithography, focuses on diatoms, single cell eukaryotic algae with ornate silica shells, which can be replaced by oxides and ceramics, or reduced to elemental silicon, to create complex nanostructures with compositions of industrial and electronics importance. Diatoms produce an enormous variety of structures, some of which are microtubule dependent and perhaps sensitive to microgravity. The NASA Single Loop for Cell Culture (SLCC) for culturing and observing microorganisms permits inexpensive, low labor in-space experiments. We propose to send up to the International Space Station diatom cultures of the three diatom species whose genomes are currently being sequenced, plus the giant diatoms of Antarctica (up to 6 mm length for a single cell) and the unique colonial diatom, Bacillaria paradoxa . Bacillaria cells move against each other in partial synchrony, like a sliding deck of cards, by a microfluidics mechanism. Will normal diatoms have aberrant patterns, shapes or motility compared to ground controls? The generation time is typically one day, so that many generations may be examined from one flight. Rapid, directed evolution may be possible running the SLCC as a compustat. The shell shapes and patterns are preserved in hard silica, so that the progress of normal and aberrant morphogenesis may be followed by drying samples on a moving filter paper "diatom tape recorder". With a biodiversity of 100,000 distinct species, diatom nanotechnology may offer a compact and portable nanotechnology toolkit for space exploration anywhere.

© (2007) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.

Richard Gordon ; Richard B. Hoover ; Jack A. Tuszynski ; Javier de Luis ; Philip J. Camp, et al.
"Diatoms in space: testing prospects for reliable diatom nanotechnology in microgravity", Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 66940V (October 01, 2007); doi:10.1117/12.737051; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.737051

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