Biological researchers have created dead 'zombie' cells in the lab which outperform living cells.
A team at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico have innovated a technique whereby mammalian cells are coated with silica to form a near-perfect replicas.
The silica replicants can survive greater pressures and temperatures than flesh, and perform many functions better than the original cells did when alive.
By painting the cells with silicic acid in a petri dish, the acid embalms the organic matter in the cell down to the nanometer level.
The silica then acts as a permeable armour, according to Michael Hess at the American Office of Public Affairs.
That means the cell beneath can be used as a catalyst at far greater temperatures than normal.
Heating the silica to around 400C evaporates the protein in the cell, but leaves the silica as a three-dimensional replica of the "formerly living being", Hess said.
"The difference is that instead of modeling the face, say, of a famous criminal, the hardened silica-based cells display internal mineralized structures with intricate features ranging from nano- to millimeter-length scales."
The valuable biological material can thus be converted into a reusable fossil, which could have uses in fuel cells, decontamination and sensor technology, as well as commercial manufacturing.
Lead researcher Bryan Kaehr said in a statement that the research distinguishes between a mummy cell and a zombie cell.
"Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work," he said, terrifyingly.
Are We Really Here?
Physicists announced evidence that we may be living in an enormous computer in 2012 - or at least the chance they might be able to test if we are. It's a slight announcement in some ways, but as by far our most popular running story of 2012 <a href="www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/12/physicists-universe-simulation-test-university-of-washington-matrix_n_2282745.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">it's clearly among your favourites to be the most significant in the coming decades.</a>
Mars Rover Curiosity
In July Nasa <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/14/nasa-proves-mars-rover-curiosity-self-portrait-conspiracy_n_2298684.html">successfully landed the $2.5 billion Mars rover Curiosity</a> on the surface of Mars using an untested 'sky crane' suspended by rocket boosters. It is the largest and most complex vehicle ever to make it to another planet, and will search for signs of life for more than two years.
Higgs Boson Discovered
To huge cheers and standing ovations, scientists at the world's biggest particle accelerator claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle in July, calling it "consistent" with the long-sought Higgs boson popularly known as the "God particle" which gives matter its mass.
Earth-Like Exoplanets Discovered
Several breakthroughs in the search for Earth-like planets outside our Solar System were made in 2012, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20249753">including the discovery of what appears to be a 'Super Earth' in November.</a> These finds take us closer than ever to finding a world capable of sustaining life other than Earth. The discovery <a href="http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/11/newly-discovered-earth-like-planet-could-be-habitable/">of HD 40307g</a> was probably the most exciting, as it was shown to be orbiting its sun in a so-called "goldilocks zone" just like Earth.
Nasa Maps The Moon
Nasa's Grail mission launched two craft - Ebb and Flow - into orbit around the Moon to produce the most detailed gravity map of any body in the Solar System - including Earth. They crashed (on purpose) in December, but their work could help us understand how our world was formed - and if life might be hidden in the depths of Mars.
Many breakthroughs in medicine were made in 2012, but among the most exciting was a study in July <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-08/aids-cure-quest-advances-as-merck-cancer-medicine-attacks-hidden-hiv.html">which showed how a drug for a rare type of cancer was able to "flush out" deposits of HIV</a>. Work is still ongoing - and a cure is still far away - but it points in the direction of true breakthroughs in future.
Space X Docks With ISS
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial ship to dock successfully with the International Space Station and deliver supplies.
Robot Helps In Heart Surgery
A robot was able to participate <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-20028502"> in open-heart surgery</a> for the first time in Britain in 2012, raising hopes that the machines may eventually lead to man's emancipation from hardship and illness, and not our total annihilation.
Climate Change: Still Awful
A host of breakthroughs in the study of climate change made for depressing - and occasionally hopeful - reading in 2012. The rate of polar melting <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/11/arctic-sea-ice-vanishing"> was shown to be at fresh record levels</a>, and the most aggressive scenarios were <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-science-predictions-prove-too-conservative">said to be too conservative</a>. But fresh talks at Doha, while they accomplished little in solid policy, raised some hopes at a widespread and transformative shift in public opinion.
Man Jumps From Space
Red Bull Stratos pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria jumped from a capsule more than 24 miles up in 2012 - the highest jump ever and alone a significant technical achievement - but also among the most-watched public science experiments in many years.
Teleportation (albeit of information, not people) came a step closer to reality in 2012 after an international team <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905134356.htm ">was able to send quantum information</a> more than 143 kilometres in "mid air".
A study in April was able to construct a working "quantum computer" network for the first time, indicating a truly transformative technological breakthrough in computing <a href="an elementary network for exchanging and storing quantum information">in which data could be transmitted by single atoms.</a>