November 28, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Knowledge of Light Is Power

Now that engineers are becoming adept at manipulating materials at the scale of billionths of a meter, they are taking first steps toward using a power source familiar to plants: light.  Science Daily described the first humble attempts to get light photons to drive nano-sized machines.
    The article did not mention whether photosynthesis provided any inspiration for the research, but it is well known that plant chloroplasts are able to harvest single photons for energy with optimal efficiency.  These engineers realize their first attempts have a long way to go.  The light intensity they are using is a million times stronger than sunlight.  “It took more than 60 years to progress from the first transistors to the speed and power of today’s computers,” the article stated.  “Creating devices that run solely on light rather than electronics will now begin a similar process of development, according to the authors.”

More power to them.  How about a little humility, though, considering that their technology can’t hold a candle to the light-harvesting abilities of blue-green algae?  The paradigm of our time is that time and chance accomplished a feat that is taxing the design capabilities of the human brain, the most complex arrangement of matter in the universe.

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