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Living machinesA handbook of research in biomimetics and biohybrid systems$
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Tony J. Prescott, Nathan Lepora, and Paul F.M.J Verschure

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199674923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199674923.001.0001

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Toward living nanomachines

Toward living nanomachines

(p.380) Chapter 39 Toward living nanomachines
Living machines

Christof Mast

Friederike Möller

Moritz Kreysing

Severin Schink

Benedikt Obermayer

Ulrich Gerland

Dieter Braun

Oxford University Press

How does inanimate matter become transformed into animate matter? Living systems evolve by replication and selection at the molecular level and this chapter considers how to establish a synthetic, minimal system that can support molecular evolution and thus life. Molecular evolution cannot be explained by starting with high concentrations of activated chemicals that react toward their chemical equilibrium; persistent non-equilibria are required to maintain continuous reactivity and we especially consider thermal gradients as an early driving force for Darwinian molecular evolution. The temperature difference across water-filled compartments implements a laminar fluid convection with periodic temperature oscillations that allow for the melting and replication of DNA. Simultaneously, dissolved molecules are moved along the thermal gradient by an effect called thermophoresis. The combined result is an efficient molecule trap that exponentially favors long over short DNA and thus maintains complexity. Future experiments will reveal how thermal gradients could actively drive the Darwinian process of replication and selection.

Keywords:   living matter, non-equilibrium, molecular evolution, synthetic life, origin of life, thermophoresis, convection, PCR, thermal trap

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