A new type of 3-D printing ink has a special ingredient: live bacteria.
Materials made with this “living ink” could help clean up environmental pollution, harvest energy via photosynthesis or help make medical supplies, researchers report online December 1 in Science Advances.
This study “shows for the first time that 3-D printed bacteria can make useful materials,” says Anne Meyer, a biologist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands who wasn’t involved in the work.
The newly concocted printing ink is a polymer mix called a hydrogel that is blended with bacteria and a broth of nutrients that helps bacterial cells grow and reproduce. Eventually, the bacteria use up all of this built-in sustenance, says study coauthor Manuel Schaffner, a material scientist at ETH Zurich. But the ink is porous, so dipping a 3-D printed structure in more broth can reload it with nutrients, he says.
Schaffner and colleagues printed a grid embedded with a breed of bacteria called Pseudomonas putida, which eats the hazardous chemical phenol. When the researchers placed this lattice in phenol-contaminated water, the bacteria completely purified the water…
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