Engineers in Zürich have created a biocompatible ink for 3D printing using living bacteria.
This new techique makes it possible to produce biological materials which could be capable of everything from breaking down toxic substances to producing high-purity cellulose for biomedi-cal applications.
The team were able to develope this “ink” using two bacteria as the active component. The ink is called “Flink” (functional living ink) and looks like a viscous gel.
The key to keeping the bacteria alive is that the substance contained long-chain sugar molecules, silica and hyaluronic acid, as well as a ‘culture medium’ that feeds the bacteria.
Crucial to the success of the ‘ink’ is its consistency. It needed to be both self-supporting and allow the bacteria some freedom of movement.
The consistency of Flink is particularly crucial; it needs to be self-supporting, but must also allow the bacteria some freedom of movement. “The ink must be as viscous as toothpaste and have the consistency of Nivea hand cream, Manuel Schaffner
Currently the technique is limited by the bacteria that can be incorporated into the Flink but the team think a future application could be a bacteria/3D-printed sensor which mightd detect toxins in drinking water, or even bacteria/filters which could mop up oil spills.
The paper was published as “3D printing of bacteria into functional complex materials” in Science Advances 01 Dec 2017 Vol. 3, no. 12