The brilliant colors come from microbes that have evolved to thrive in this extreme environment of boiling acid. (This photo is straight from the camera, with no editing. The colors really do look like that. large size)
Synthetic Genomics just finished sampling these waters to try to help unlock their secrets.
And it’s not the first foray. Early in my exploration of nanotechnology, I came across Jonathan Trent and his work with these microbes. He found a peculiar protein that self-assembled in groups of nine into a ring, and then into a sphere, and the spheres would pack together into thin films on a surface. Metals inside the rings could be left behind on a surface when the proteins were boiled off. It seemed like a jump to the future – an ability to create regular arrays of nanoscale structures from the bottom up, long before the semiconductor industry’s top-down approach.
So I wrote in my first article on Transcending Moore’s Law:
“Researchers at NASA Ames are taking self-assembling heat shock proteins from thermophiles and genetically modifying them so that they will deposit a regular array of electrodes with a 17nm spacing. This could be useful for patterned magnetic media in the disk drive industry or electrodes in a polymer solar cell.”
And my interests shifted to the biological bottom-up path to creating complex systems.