A new study recently showed that with a little persuasion living organisms can form silicon-carbon bonds, a process that was yet possible only through chemists. The accomplishment was registered by a team of researchers working at the California Institute of Technology created man-made bonds through a bacterial protein called “bred”. Molecules that showcase silicon-carbon bonds are known as organosilicon and are mostly found in several products as well as pharmaceuticals along with agricultural chemicals, semiconductors, paints, computers, and TV screens. Most of these products are currently formed synthetically as natural silicon-carbon bonds are not found.
The new study shows that biological creatures can be used in manufacturing of these bonds in ways that are more eco-friendly and much less expensive. According to Frances Arnold, the professor of biochemistry, bioengineering, and chemical engineering as well as principal investigator of this new research, “We decided to get nature to do what only chemists would do – only better.” it is also one of the first study that shows that nature is capable of adapting with new requirements that means it can incorporate silicon into carbon-based molecules which are also the building blocks of natural life. Chemically, carbon and silicon have a lot of similarities. Both are capable of forming bonds with other four atoms simultaneously which makes them much more suitable for long chain of molecules that are found in various life forms.
Jennifer Kan says, “No living organism is known to put silicon-carbon bonds together, even though silicon is so abundant, all around us, in rocks and all over the beach.” She is a postdoctoral scholar who works in Arnold’s lab and also the lead author of a completely new study. Silicon happens to be second most widely available element on our planet. The method that was used for this purpose is called directed evolution that was invented by Arnold in 1990s. Under this process the new and better performing enzymes are made following the process of artificial selection. The method has been used for years in manufacturing of enzymes for various domestic products like detergents and several others.
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