Engineers at MIT have designed a moisture-responsive workout suit. Ventilating flaps are lined with live cells and can open and close in response to an athlete’s sweat.
The flaps (which range from thumbnail- to finger-sized) are lined with live microbial cells that shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity.
This allows each cell to act as tiny sensors and actuators. They can drive the flaps to open when an athlete works up a sweat, then pull them closed when the body has cooled off.
This illustration shows reversible bending behavior induced by the moisture gradient for a bilayer biohybrid fabric.
The left and right panels show the reversible change of cell size and cellular fluorescence due to moisture change.
The team say that these moisture-sensitive cells require no additional elements to sense and respond to humidity and that they are safe to touch and even consume.
These cells are so strong that they can induce bending of the substrate they are coated on
Wen Wang, the paper’s lead author and a former research scientist in MIT’s Media Lab and Department of Chemical Engineering
The outfit was created by using a cell-printing method they had previously developed to print E. coli onto sheets of rough, natural latex.
This illustration demonstrates shoe sole ventilation through biohybrid flaps opening when exposed to sweat from the foot.
Additionally, the MIT team also used the moisture-responsive fabric to create a rough prototype of a running shoe.
Details of both the suit and shoe designs are published today in Science Advances.