UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) scientists have, for the first time, used genetic engineering and molecular evolution to direct the enzymatic synthesis of a semiconductor.

By controlling this directed evolution, it will be possible to evolve materials with specific capacities, like high performance in an evolved solar cell, for example, the researchers say.

“In the realm of human technologies it would be a new method, but it’s an ancient approach in nature,” said UCSB scientist Lukmaan Bawazer.

Using silicateins — proteins responsible for the formation of silica skeletons in marine sponges — the researchers were able to generate new mineral architectures by directing the evolution of these enzymes.

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