Diatoms--single-celled phytoplankton (algae)--are one of the most plentiful life forms on Earth, accounting for 20 percent of the carbon dioxide removed from the environment each year. The mechanism they use--encasing themselves in patterned silicon dioxide shells as they fall to the bottom of oceans and lakes worldwide--removes as much carbon dioxide from the environment as all of the planet's rainforests combined. Now, an electrical engineer, a biochemist and a geneticist are collaborating at the company they founded--NimbleGen Systems Inc. (Madison, Wis.)--to harness the diatom, as an alternative to lithography, to produce the intricate patterns on future semiconductors. By identifying the 75 genes, out of 13,000, that control silicon dioxide pattern formation in diatoms, the researchers hope to precisely control diatoms to pattern chips. Their results will be published in an upcoming issue of the prestigious "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."