Scientists have announced that they have developed a synthetic crystal that 'shows signs of life' in a laboratory environment. Researchers have discovered 'inanimate' particles that react when exposed to light and turn into crystals that move when fed with chemicals.
Biophysicist Jérémie Palacci from New York University (NYU), who took part in the research, said, "Particles are on the indefinite border between being alive and non-living."
Palacci and his colleague Paul Chaikin were able to develop 'particles that, under the right chemical conditions, transform into living crystals,' according to the study published in the journal Science. Researchers working on 'collective behavior' stated that it is easier for their experiments and observations to produce 'controllable particles' instead of flocks of fish and birds.
HOW WAS THE EXPERIMENT DONE?
According to the news of Wired magazine, each particle that makes up the synthetic crystals consists of a microscopic cube of hematite. Composed of iron and oxygen, hematite was enclosed in a spherical sheath with one side open.
Between certain waves of blue light, hematite began to generate electricity. When the particles were then exposed to hydrogen peroxide under blue light, chemical reactions began around the exposed part of the hematite. As a result of the chemical reaction, the hydrogen peroxide dissolves and chemical gradients are formed. The particles move along the gradients, forming the crystal. It moves on gradients in the formed crystal.
In the light environment, any force applied to or exposed to particles causes their dispersion. But the particles come together every time. This cycle only ends when the lights go out.
MANY MYSTERIES WILL BE SOLVE
With synthetic crystal experiments, scientists aim to study complex collective behavior independently of individual characteristics. Mentioning that in the future, self-assembling structures can be developed at the molecular level, the researchers say that it is inevitable that questions about the origin of life should come to mind.
Palacci said, “With our experiment, we have developed a simple, synthetic active structure and with this structure, we have revealed the properties of living systems… I cannot say that the system observed in this experiment is alive. But I can say that the experiment shows that the limit between being alive and not being alive depends on a kind of preference.” Chaikin stated that 'it is difficult to define life in the experiment, but it shows a metabolism, mobility and self-replication properties'. The US researcher said that the crystals he developed in his first experiment had the first two features, but the self-replication feature was obtained in the latest experiments.
Some scientists think that the building blocks that make up life acquire the ability to self-replicate after millions of years. This feature is believed to have emerged as the building blocks took the necessary formations.
Researchers think that by interfering with the copying process, mutations—the conditions necessary for natural selection and evolution—can be achieved. Although Chaikin says it's almost impossible not to guess what the first chemical cycles were like, stretching back billions of years, "We're continuing to work on it, our current goal is to create a more mobile system," he said.
Source : ntvmsnbc