He has managed to build cell-like bubbles from giant metal-containing molecules and has given them some life-like properties. He now hopes to induce them to evolve into fully inorganic self-replicating entities.
"I am 100 per cent positive that we can get evolution to work outside organic biology," says Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow. His building blocks are large "polyoxometalates" made of a range of metal atoms — most recently tungsten — linked to oxygen and phosphorus. By simply mixing them in solution, he can get them to self-assemble into cell-like spheres.