Toward living nanomachines


  • C. Mast
  • F. Möller
  • M. Kreysing
  • S. Schink
  • B. Obermayer
  • U. Gerland
  • D. Braun


  • Living machines: a handbook of research in biomimetic and biohybrid systems


  • 380-389


  • 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.