Monday, April 2, 2012

Replicators

In the Star Trek franchise, spaceships were outfitted with devices called replicators that could replicate various objects and consumables.  While the idea that a device could somehow replicate matter and seemingly create objects out of thin air seems far fetched, some folks are already working on such concepts (although the matter might not materialize out of thin air).

Scientists are already developing a concept called "organ printing."  Essentially, it is a way of 'printing' living human tissue with the goal of ultimately being able to 'print' out entire organs.  Here is explanation of how it works:

"What we do is we modify -- it's a regular ink-jet printer -- but we do not use the paper-feed mechanism, so basically we just have a cartridge moving back and forth and where the paper goes we put a petri dish," explained Thomas Boland, an associate professor at Clemson University. 
Boland says that there is some liquid in the dish and that in place of ink cartridges are cartridges filled with cells and a "crosslinker." 
The crosslinker is a chemical that causes the liquid in the petri dish to gel, giving the printer a soft but solid Jell-O-like surface to print the cells on. 
The process can be repeated over and over, adding liquid, gelling it, printing more cells, and building layer upon layer, creating three dimensions.

See a video on the topic here.

But that's not all.  Printing isn't limited to just 2-D images on paper anymore.  A 3-D printer from 3-D Systems Corp can print out 3 dimensional objects.  Watch it in the video below.

 

So if we can already print out 3-D objects, how much longer until we can just replicate some hot Earl Grey tea complete with cup and saucer?

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Read about some other science fiction concepts becoming reality here and here.

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