Hiroshima University in Japan is developing a technology to collect core semiconductor materials floating in the sea using bacteria.

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun reported on the 22nd that a research team, including Associate Professor Yoriko Tominaga of Hiroshima University and Professor Yoshiko Okamura, recently discovered the habit of collecting key semiconductor materials such as gallium and indium from bacteria in marichromatium. The bacteria used by the research team in this study were collected from their territorial waters such as Kyushu, Japan.

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According to reports, when the bacteria are injected into the waste fluid of factories that handle gallium, etc., materials are collected by the bacteria and discharged in vitro in a lump form. Associate Professor Tominaga explained, "We also collect high-performance semiconductor materials used for optical communication and laser."

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun saw that there was a possibility that the bacteria will go beyond simple material collection and solve crystallization and thinning for semiconductor advancement in the future. The researchers observed the material emitted by bacteria with an electron microscope and confirmed that a crystal structure in which atoms were regularly collected was formed in some areas.

In general, large-scale energy is consumed because semiconductor crystallization and thin-film processes require high-temperature environments and dedicated equipment. The Nihon Keizai expects that replacing the process with bacteria will not only significantly reduce energy but also contribute to carbon neutrality.

Associate Professor Tominaga plans to focus on research that analyzes the material crystallization process caused by bacteria in detail in the future. He explained that semiconductor crystals or thin films made of bacteria cannot be used in state-of-the-art manufacturing devices but expressed his willingness to apply them to commercially available electronic components.

The research team has set a goal of manufacturing semiconductor devices that are installed in low-cost solar power generation and simple communication devices by 2050. For this matter, it plans to develop a technology that allows electricity to flow through semiconductor materials made by bacteria by 2030.

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun said, "There are many types of bacteria that are active in water and solutions that collect minerals," and expected, "If we establish a system that utilizes bacteria that collects rare metals and rare soil samples, Japan may become a 'resource country'."

By Staff Reporter Hee-seok Yoon (pioneer@etnews.com)