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New 3-D printed materials harness the power of bacteria

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A new type of 3-D printing ink has a special ingredient: live bacteria.

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. Schaffner and colleagues printed a grid embedded with a breed of bacteria called Pseudomonas putida, which eats the hazardous chemical phenol.

The lattices printed for this study are just centimeters across, points out Jürgen Groll, a materials scientist at the University of Würzburg in Germany not involved in the work, so “Scaling up is really going to be an issue if you want to deploy these commercially.”

The researchers demonstrated this idea by mixing up a batch of ink laced with the cellulose-producing bacteria Acetobacter xylinum and printing a patch in the precise shape of a doll’s face.

Bacteria can be genetically modified to produce various proteins and other substances humans need, so 3-D printed bacterial materials may have many other medical uses, too.


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Post Author: Maria Temming

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