Will your future clothes be made of algae?
ANI | Updated: May 06, 2021 09:06 IST
Amsterdam [Netherlands], May 6 (ANI): For the first time, an international team of researchers from the University of Rochester and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands used 3D printers and a novel bioprinting technique to print algae into living, photosynthetic materials that are tough and resilient.
Living materials, which are made by housing biological cells within a non-living matrix, have gained popularity in recent years as scientists recognize that often the most robust materials are those that mimic nature.
The research is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
"Three-dimensional printing is a powerful technology for fabrication of living functional materials that have a huge potential in a wide range of environmental and human-based applications," says Srikkanth Balasubramanian, a postdoctoral research associate at Delft and the first author of the paper.
"We provide the first example of an engineered photosynthetic material that is physically robust enough to be deployed in real-life applications."
To create the photosynthetic materials, the researchers began with non-living bacterial cellulose -- an organic compound that is produced and excreted by bacteria. Bacterial cellulose has many unique mechanical properties, including its flexibility, toughness, strength, and ability to retain its shape, even when twisted, crushed, or otherwise physically distorted.
The bacterial cellulose is like the paper in a printer while living microalgae acts as the ink. The researchers used a 3D printer to deposit living algae onto the bacterial cellulose.
The combination of living (microalgae) and nonliving (bacterial cellulose) components resulted in a unique material that has the photosynthetic quality of the algae and the robustness of the bacterial cellulose; the material is tough and resilient while also eco-friendly, biodegradable, and simple and scalable to produce.
The plant-like nature of the material means it can use photosynthesis to "feed" itself over periods of many weeks, and it is also able to be regenerated -- a small sample of the material can be grown on-site to make more materials.