There have been many advances in biological materials over the past few years, but when obtaining the control required to create them in sufficiently complicated structures, the uses of the technology have been limited. Now however, a team of scientists have demonstrated the use of bacteria in 3D printer ink to create two distinct structures.
One of the 3D printed materials can be used to remove pollutants, having uses in the environmental sector. The other material can be used to create cellulose, which is used in the medical industry. These living materials are the first of many which utilise complicated three dimensional geometries in their structure.
What next? Bacteria is famous for having remarkable properties. They can be found in almost any environment, finding food and energy and creating a huge amount of various molecules in the process. The exact way bacteria interact with their environment can also be altered genetically, meaning that nature's palette is at our fingertips.
Medicine and technology as a whole stand to benefit from this emerging new technology, even the food industry can benefit with special materials designed to make edible molecules and ingredients. The applications of this technology stand to change the way we synthesise molecules on factory scales. Bacteria can create enzymes, proteins, salts, chalks, and long chain polymers and now that it's possible to accurately place them within complex geometries, the consistent and predictable aspect to this technology can be applied.
The main issue with recent struggles in this advance has been forcing the bacteria to remain immobile within the biomateirals. Fixing them into place using the 3D printing required specialist molecules that could hold the cells appropriately. This new technology grants scientists full control over the spatial alignments of individual cells, making this the beginning of a very exciting time in material science.
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