A cell phone made of tapioca

Although this may seem like an April Fool’s Day prank, it is a true story. There's a video playing at New York's Museum of Modern Art about “Morph, a curvaceous concept cell phone from Nokia, reports Business Week. It wraps around your wrist like a bracelet when you're not using it for calls, kills germs and looks out for your health by "sniffing" the surrounding air and analyzing your perspiration.

Made with a derivative of insulin along with silicon, metals, and synthetic materials commonly used to make consumer electronics, the Morph, hints of an emerging body of research that taps into biology for the good of gadgetry. Viruses, silkworms, salmon sperm and potatoes are among the multitude of living organisms that scientists are trying to harness to make better parts for computers, MP3 players, cell phones, and other devices. In addition to Nokia, companies pursuing this path include IBM, Motorola, Fujitsu, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard and dozens of startups.

So-called "bioplastics," containing petroleum-based chemicals, starch-based resins derived from crops such as potatoes, corn, tapioca and wheat, can account for half of the final product's makeup.

"Morph is a dream based on real technology," says Mark Welland, head of Nanoscale Science Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, which is collaborating with Nokia on insulin research. "Nothing in this video is science fiction." In the past year, Nokia and University of Cambridge scientists have been melding proteins found in insulin into a material with the strength of spider's silk, which is as strong as steel and tougher than just about any other naturally occurring biological substance.

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