Scientists are using microbes as inspiration for the computers of the future.
A study published in the Small journal reports that experts have been studying ore-eating microbes called Magnetospirillum magneticum.
After analysing these microbes, the team from the University of Leeds in the UK and the University of Agriculture and Technology in Tokyo found that as they ingest the ore they become magnetic – so much so that they follow the Earth’s magnetic field lines, in the same way that a compass does.
These tiny magnets are similar to those in PC hard drives. As technology advances, it’s getting harder to produce the tiny parts that make up PCs – but this is where the Magnetospirillum could help.
"We are quickly reaching the limits of traditional electronic manufacturing as computer components get smaller," said lead researcher Dr Sarah Staniland of the University of Leeds.
"The machines we've traditionally used to build them are clumsy at such small scales.
"Nature has provided us with the perfect tool to [deal with] this problem."
According to a report on the BBC, the researchers replicated what the bacteria could do, "effectively ‘growing’ magnets that could in future help to build hard drives”.