Issue Date: January 2, 2012
‘Knotable’ Gold, Lab-Grown Meat
Finding the perfect gift is always a difficult task, not just during the holiday shopping season, but all year round. Thanks to scientists at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology, another gift option for the man who has everything will be available in 2012: a gold tie.
Newscripts readers with an extra $8,000 on hand can buy the good-as-gold fellows in their lives a cravat coated in the precious metal from Zurich-based tie maker Hofman & Co.
To make such a tie possible, lab scientists and textile company experts developed a machine with the Midas touch. Inside the machine, which is no larger than a household refrigerator, argon ions bombard a coin-shaped solid gold disk. Dislodged gold atoms then deposit onto a polyester fiber one by one. The gold adheres permanently to the thread, which is later woven and cut into a supple, “knotable” tie.
According to experts at the Swiss lab, textile makers have tried to make gold ties before, but the results were less than perfect. One technique involved wrapping a fine gold wire around a thread in the same way fine steel or bronze wire is wound around filaments to make guitar strings. But ties woven with these fibers had a rough metallic feel, making them more like chain mail and less like a luxurious textile.
Producing the 24-karat gold-plated tie with the new method is a time-consuming endeavor. Gold yarn production started up at a mill in Emmen, Switzerland, in the summer of 2011, but the manufacturer expected to have only enough material on hand for a dozen ties by the end of December. So if the cost doesn’t make the tie a precious gift, its rarity will.
While Newscripts readers are saving their pennies for shiny new neckwear, they can also put away some cash to pay for a high-tech holiday meal next season.
A scientist at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, says he will likely be able to grow enough meat in a petri dish by later this year to make a hamburger, according to a Nov. 11, 2011, story by the news service Reuters. The cost: about $345,000 per burger.
After doing some hunting around, the Newscripts gang found that interest among academic researchers in growing meat from animal muscle cells has been cooking for some time.
A 2005 paper in the journal Tissue Engineering (DOI: 10.1089/ten.2005.11.659) suggests that “cultured meat” could have health and environmental advantages over conventional meat. The use of tissue culture techniques would reduce pollution from raising livestock, and drugs used to raise farm animals wouldn’t need to be used on the lab-cultured cells, the paper’s authors say.
And then there are the organizations whose mission it is to egg on developers of lab-grown meat. One such group, the In Vitro Meat Consortium, was formed in 2007 in Norway as “an international alliance of enviromentally concerned scientists striving to facilitate the establishment of a large-scale process industry for the production of muscle tissue for human consumption through concerted R&D efforts,” according to its website.
Another group, New Harvest, was founded in 2004 to fund research into meat substitutes. The group expects cultured meat in the form of sausage, hamburger, and chicken nuggets to become available to the public within the next few years.
But real meat lovers will have to wait much longer. Producing test-tube steaks or pork chops “would involve technologies that do not yet exist and that may take a decade or longer to develop,” the New Harvest group says.
- Chemical & Engineering News
- ISSN 0009-2347
- Copyright © American Chemical Society