You can even eat the dishes....
September 2, 2010 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Nanotech researchers have developed, quite by accident, the first all-natural metal organic framework (MOF) made from renewable sources. And it turns out, you can eat them too. “They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland” Doesn't sound very promising as a snack food, but it is very interesting to those looking to use MOF to store gases, say hydrogen, in a more renwable manner. You can actually make these for yourself, you just y-cyclodextrin, potassium benzoate, water, and, well, Everclear. Yum?
posted by cross_impact (47 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Me: How is metal renewable?
TFA: metal-organic
Me: I don't want edible, which is to say bacterially-vulnerable, material used as a pressure vessel.
TFA: It isn't under pressure.
Me: All right, I'll tentatively OK this scientific advance.
TFA: Thanks.
posted by DU at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


wouldn't critters chew through the stuff releasing the hydrogen and causing a Michael Bay type scenario?
posted by angrycat at 11:55 AM on September 2, 2010


Your new communion wafer has SCIENCE in it!
posted by hermitosis at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is may be edible, but is it digestible?
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:58 AM on September 2, 2010


So they invented Doozer sticks?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:59 AM on September 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Me: How is metal renewable?

recycling?
posted by delmoi at 12:00 PM on September 2, 2010


They contain potassium benzoate!

...

That's bad.
posted by Jpfed at 12:00 PM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Perhaps this is the type of scientific discovery that will be the hallmark of this century: finding natural (or at least non-toxic and biodegradable) replacements for existing methods, that also turn out to be easier and cheaper. Fingers crossed.
posted by davejay at 12:02 PM on September 2, 2010


Can it store methane? Might save us from the hydrates melting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2010


"They contain potassium benzoate!

...

That's bad."



"The salts can be potassium chloride, a common salt substitute, or potassium benzoate, a commercial food preservative"
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:04 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Potassium is the metal, by the way. Sodium is also a metal, and makes up table salt with chloride. This is pretty damned cool.
posted by kalessin at 12:08 PM on September 2, 2010


"They contain potassium benzoate!

...

That's bad."


"The salts can be potassium chloride, a common salt substitute, or potassium benzoate, a commercial food preservative"


That's good!
posted by kaibutsu at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


And it turns out, you can eat them too. “They taste kind of bitter, like... an infinite expanse of tears, coated in fear, and the end of all humanity
posted by blue_beetle at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Benzoate has the tendency to break down into benzene...doesn't really make me hungry, but definitely a cool find!
posted by samsara at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2010


"They contain potassium benzoate!

...

That's bad."


"The salts can be potassium chloride, a common salt substitute, or potassium benzoate, a commercial food preservative"

That's good!

And it turns out, you can eat them too. “They taste kind of bitter, like... an infinite expanse of tears, coated in fear, and the end of all humanity


That's bad
posted by MustardTent at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


“I have nothing against there being a few people who want to achieve some of the scientific milestones needed to accomplish “nanotech.” I have a great deal against charlatans who claim that we should actually invest significant resources into this crazy idea. If you’re an investor, and somebody’s prospectus talks about “nano” anything, assuming they’re not selling you a semiconductor fab, you can bet that they are selling you snake oil. There is no nanotech. Stop talking about it. Start laughing at it. As Nobel prize winning chemist Richard Smalley put it to Drexler [the inventor of nanotechnology]: ‘No, you don’t get it. You are still in a pretend world where atoms go where you want because your computer program directs them to go there.’” Nano-nonsense: 25 years of charlatanry.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2010


“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland” - ya, but they are 54% empty space. Even AS a food product, you could put a lot of things in there to make it taste better.
posted by Arandia at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2010


Even AS a food product, you could put a lot of things in there to make it taste better

I'll bet molecular gastronomists will know soon enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a great deal against charlatans who claim that we should actually invest significant resources into this crazy idea.

This guy sounds like he has an axe to grind. The researchers in this case weren't out to make "new and superior forms of life". They were trying to create new molecular architectures, and they happened upon a neat discovery.
posted by lholladay at 12:28 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is extremely cool.

...and causing a Michael Bay type scenario?

Wouldn't work. He's incapable of doing a small movie. :)
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even AS a food product, you could put a lot of things in there to make it taste better

I'll bet molecular gastronomists will know soon enough.


That's...good?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:31 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


lholladay: “This guy sounds like he has an axe to grind. The researchers in this case weren't out to make "new and superior forms of life". They were trying to create new molecular architectures, and they happened upon a neat discovery.”

It is kind of axe-grindy; I mostly just linked it because I think it's interesting. But I do agree with him that it seems like nanotechnology, purely in the strict, original sense of "tiny machines that can manipulate molecules," is a pipe dream which it would be pointless to pursue; even Drexler has said that it's clearly not possible with what we have now, and has said some hand-wavey things about quantum mechanics maybe making it possible. However, I am most decisively Not A Scientist, so this is just my own opinion.
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on September 2, 2010


‘No, you don’t get it. You are still in a pretend world where atoms go where you want because your computer program directs them to go there.’” Nano-nonsense: 25 years of charlatanry.

A friend of mine got his Ph.D. recently. He was investigating how to "seed" molten metal so that the molecules of metal would form crystals in particular - more durable - patterns. It involved a fair amount of mathematically modelling how the individual atoms would behave. The extent of my scientific knowledge is that the Earth goes round the Sun and not the other way around, but that sounds fairly nanotechnological to me.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 12:40 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The term nanotechnology is often used to apply to anything that involves paying attention to molecular scale events or structures, but as originally introduced by Drexler, it was specifically about nano-bots, which are microscopic, programmable, self-replicating robots. Nanotechnology is a potentially revolutionary technology which is far beyond our present ability to actually build. Meanwhile, what other kinds of things besides nano-bots are made of molecules? Almost all matter that we normally encounter on the surface of the planet Earth is made of molecules. Some matter is made of atoms, and some is made of ions or plasma, but it's mostly molecules. All large objects are made from smaller objects, so if anything is examined closely enough, one can find some kind of nanotechnology. But we have been using that kind of nanotechnology essentially forever; even if you examined a really well chipped stone hand-axe, you would find that the edge is sharp to a degree measured in molecules. As far as seeding molten metal to form a particular kind of crystalization, that may be a new technique for controlling the crystalization of metal, but many older techniques exist. Rapid cooling is the oldest technique (by quenching in water). It falls under the heading of material science, rather than nanotechnology.
posted by grizzled at 12:59 PM on September 2, 2010


Sufficiently advanced material science is indistinguishable from nanotechnology.
posted by ecurtz at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


And it turns out, you can eat them too.

I'm going to choose to believe that, as a part of the Scientific Method, this is tested regardless of the logic or need to do so.

"Today, our lab was able to synthesize a form of highly reactive antimatter in large quantities. Our initial testing indicates that this could one day provide a source of cheap clean power. It is also, most emphatically not edible.

In related news, I would like to mourn the passing of Dr. Smith, head of science tasting department. He will be missed."
posted by quin at 1:16 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


The extent of my scientific knowledge is that the Earth goes round the Sun and not the other way around, but that sounds fairly nanotechnological to me.

What people don't like about nanotech is the bait and switch aspect of it. The nanotech boosters talk about armies of nano-scale machines doing our bidding but then when it comes to applications, the best they can do is "nano-powders" which are just finely ground powder. Or they do things that are really chemistry or crystallography and label them as "nanotech", I mean, I guess that is technically true, but its a little deceptive.
posted by atrazine at 1:22 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


JOHN
So this other guy? He's a terminator too,
right, like you?

TERMINATOR
Not like me. A T-1000. Advanced prototype.
A mimetic polyalloy.

JOHN
What does that mean?

TERMINATOR
Liquid metal.

JOHN
Radical.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nanotech is what physicists used to call chemistry when they were applying for grants. the old phrase, condensed matter physics, wasn't very sexy and confused the granting bodies.

Unfortunately, the chemists got wise after a decade or so and started putting nanotech on their grant applications too. Now even the biologists and engineers are doing it. You know it's not trendy anymore when the chemical engineering departments get wind of something.

Nanotech used to be the pretty dress everyone wore to the ball, but it's getting overexposed. So 2005. Time for something new.
posted by bonehead at 2:00 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Today, our lab was able to synthesize a form of highly reactive antimatter in large quantities. Our initial testing indicates that this could one day provide a source of cheap clean power. It is also, most emphatically not edible.

The universe, on the other hand...
posted by qvantamon at 2:01 PM on September 2, 2010


This sounds extremely cool. However, if I take a gas (the article says Hydrogen or Carbon Dioxide) and "store" it in this new material, what happens when the new material (containing the gas) comes into contact with water (wash it down the drain)? Does the gas get released?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:07 PM on September 2, 2010


But I do agree with him that it seems like nanotechnology, purely in the strict, original sense of "tiny machines that can manipulate molecules," is a pipe dream which it would be pointless to pursue; even Drexler has said that it's clearly not possible with what we have now...

Things that are not possible with the tools we have now are precisely the things we should be pursuing.
posted by DU at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Things that are not possible with the tools we have now are precisely the things we should be pursuing.

Sure, but not in cases where we have a fair amount of evidence that to do so would be fruitless. I personally don't have enough knowledge to make that judgment, but the author of the article seems to believe as much.
posted by invitapriore at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2010


“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland” (...) but it is very interesting to those looking to use MOF to store gases

I propose we call them fart crackers.
posted by qvantamon at 2:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


qvantamon: "“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland” (...) but it is very interesting to those looking to use MOF to store gases

I propose we call them fart crackers.
"

Seconded.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:49 PM on September 2, 2010


Tip: You can substitute Potassium Benzoate with caustic potash for a more intense flavor.

ALL RIGHT WHO GAVE THEM MY CHILI RECIPE?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:17 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bugs Bunny: Stop! One more step and I'll blow ya up! This contains manganese, phosphorous, folic acid and dextrose.
Doctor: [Laughs] That is the formula for a chocolate malted.
Bugs Bunny: [Drinks it] Yum, yum! I'm a better scientist than I thought.
posted by mosk at 4:24 PM on September 2, 2010


I can imagine one of the scientists who tried eating it a week later, looking pale and sick and achy, when a coworker asks, "What's wrong?" and he says "I just I hhck I feel a little hhhrrrk I think I should aggggggh" and a beautiful metallic tree branches out of his ribcage. But then, I watched The Stuff at too young an age.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it tastes vaguely of raspberries.
Something something Total Perspective Vortex something fairy cake something ...
posted by flabdablet at 7:15 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


me: “But I do agree with him that it seems like nanotechnology, purely in the strict, original sense of "tiny machines that can manipulate molecules," is a pipe dream which it would be pointless to pursue; even Drexler has said that it's clearly not possible with what we have now...”

DU: “Things that are not possible with the tools we have now are precisely the things we should be pursuing.”

I get the pedagogical point, but what I was getting at is that it's not only not possible, it's pointless. It's like some science fiction from the fifties which imagines that someday we might conquer measles by building tiny robots programmed to enter our bodies and systematically carry out a careful destruction of all measles viruses. It's silly because we can actually make a vaccination for measles that's perfectly functional – and not the slightest bit 'nanotechnological.'

Science does some amazing things. It does some amazing tiny things, like creating metal-organic frameworks. But these amazing things are not in the slightest bit 'nanotechnology.' The thing is that, the more you look at 'technology' in the strict nanotech sense - metallic machines, that is - the more you realize that doesn't scale. And trying to build tiny, tiny robots to enter our bloodstream, or to manipulate chemical molecules, or to make stuff less toxic, or whatever, is just silly. Because we can do all that stuff with other molecules. Why build tiny machines to do it when nature already does it? Molecules are nature's nanotech. In other words, ultimately 'real' nanotechnology is just... chemistry.

Which I think is great. Nothing wrong with chemistry. Doesn't even need the fancy name. Although I take bonehead's excellent point above: "nanotechnology" is a mostly a buzzword for grant applications. Which makes me wonder if the author of the essay I posted was just a guy who got turned down for a couple of grants...
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 PM on September 2, 2010


Science also makes a large number of very important discoveries while trying to do something completely different.

Trying to do impossible things can be a whole lot more instructive than trying to do that which is merely difficult.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:09 PM on September 2, 2010


Ah. Okay, I'll just be over here working on jumping so high I escape from the earth's gravity and magically fly to the moon.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2010


science tasting department

Hands down my favorite phrase of the month. Well played, sir.
posted by flaterik at 9:38 PM on September 2, 2010


And trying to build tiny, tiny robots to enter our bloodstream, or to manipulate chemical molecules, or to make stuff less toxic, or whatever, is just silly. Because we can do all that stuff with other molecules.

This, like most discussions about nanotech, seems to be devolving into a meaningless semantic difference between "molecules" and "tiny machines."
posted by ook at 6:56 AM on September 3, 2010


(I mean, yeah, I agree that the common Drexler-based image of nanotech as just scaled-down clockwork machinery is kind of silly. Sticky fingers and all that. But if you think of it as scaled-up pharmacology instead, it doesn't sound so ridiculous.)
posted by ook at 6:59 AM on September 3, 2010


qvantamon: "“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland” (...) but it is very interesting to those looking to use MOF to store gases

I propose we call them fart crackers.
"

Naw, air biscuits.
posted by Iteki at 9:50 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Applying for grants and raising funds from investors are all just marketing and terms like "nano" are just marketing juju dust we sprinkle on the idea to make the people with money more likely to buy the line we're trying to sell them. These words go out of fashion and in fact some words like "nano" become poisoned with the taint of under-delivered over-expectations. People get all aerated about their use because they expect scientists that use sciency-sounding words to actually mean them, when they are in fact just juju dust. Today we've moved onto "green-tech", "clean-tech", "solar", "environment..." and "renewable" as our current juju words de jour.

My last start-up was founded in 1999 and was called "Nano-another equally meaningless word". It's core technology was small, but big enough to see with the human eye. There was nothing remotely nano about it. My current start-up actually uses carefully engineered (with chemistry) particles less than 10 nm in size that do cool things with solar (+100 bonus points) panels. We never never mention the word nano, people would think we're idiots.
posted by Long Way To Go at 5:02 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


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