Your Wearable Tech Could Be Powered by 3D-Printed Bacteria

3D Printed Bacteria could one day be the source that powers your clothes, the smart watch on your wrist, your VR goggles.  MIT is working on a 3D printer that uses “bio-ink” to create bacteria that will be the fundamental building blocks of ‘electricity-free wearable tech.”

Is 3D printed bacteria the future of electronics?

In the latest research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a team has developed a “living” 3D printer bio-ink that’s not only smart but could change the way we think about technology altogether. Harnessing natural reactions of bacteria, responsive devices made using this smart ink represent the basic build blocks of electricity-free wearable tech.

Made by members of the same team that made the soft-robotic, fish-catching glove, this 3D printable bio-ink adds to an extensive portfolio of smart materials in development at MIT.

3D printing and programming genetically engineered bacteria

This MIT materials study was led by Prof Xuanhe Zhao and Dr. Timothy Lu of the Soft Active Materials Laboratory. As a proof-of-concept, the researchers and their team demonstrate how live 3D printed bacteria bio-ink containing bacteria can be programmed to light up when it receives a particular chemical signal.

First, the ink is prepared with ingredients to make it the perfect microenvironment for living matter. To a hydrogel base, the researchers add a photo-initiator so the material can be cured, along with bacterial cell pellets, bacterial feed, and deionized water.

In preparation, it was also essential for the team to select the appropriate bacteria, as previous attempts using other cells had failed. “It turns out those cells were dying during the printing process because mammalian cells are basically lipid bilayer balloons,” explains Hyunwoo Yuk, one of the study’s co-authors, “they are too weak, and they easily rupture.” 

 

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