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Crawling chemical system acts as if it’s alive

They crawl. They eat. They excrete. So you’d be forgiven for thinking these globules created by a team Japan were alive – but they’re not.

Discovering life-like motion in non-living systems fascinates Akihisa Shioi, from Doshisha University. He and his team are constantly combining new chemicals to investigate the idea.

They already knew that droplets of didodecyldimethylammonium bromide (DDAB), a cheap surfactant, react with iodide ions, then scoot around and leave chemical traces, like miniature turbo-snails. Unlike snails though, these vesicles shrank, and collapsed after a few seconds. They needed feeding. Oleic acid and calcium ions proved the missing link.

Read the full story by Kathryn Gempf in Chemistry World.

This article is open access:

M Nakada et alMol. Syst. Des. Eng., 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C5ME00012B

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