You might be wearing clothes made of algae in future: study

You might be wearing clothes made of algae in future: study

Researchers from the University of Rochester and Delft University of Technology have turned algae into photosynthetic materials. The team used 3D printers to make these materials into bio-garments.

Living materials are made by housing biological cells within a non-living matrix. These materials are becoming popular as researchers have realized that often robust materials are those that mimic nature.

“Three-dimensional printing is a powerful technology for fabrication of living functional materials that have a huge potential in a wide range of environmental and human-based applications,” says Srikkanth Balasubramanian, first author of the paper.”We provide the first example of an engineered photosynthetic material that is physically robust enough to be deployed in real-life applications.”

Robust materials mimic nature

To develop the photosynthetic materials, the researchers started with non-living bacterial cellulose, an organic compound excreted by bacteria. It has many mechanical properties such as flexibility, strength, and the ability to retain its shape, even after being physically distorted.

In simpler words, the bacterial cellulose acts as paper in a printer while microalgae act as ink. The team deposited living algae onto the bacterial cellulose using a 3D printer.

This combination resulted in a unique material that comprises algae’s photosynthetic quality and bacterial cellulose’s robustness. The new material is simple to produce and is also eco-friendly.

Eco-friendly material for sustainable energy

Its plant-like nature suggests that it can use photosynthesis to keep itself alive for a long duration. Besides, it can also be regenerated — a sample of the material can be grown to produce more materials. Its unique nature makes it apt for a variety of applications such as artificial leaves, photosynthetic bio-garments, or photosynthetic skins.

Artificial leaves can mimic actual leaves and use sunlight to produce oxygen from water and carbon dioxide and aid climate change. The leaves store chemical energy that can be transformed into fuels.

“For artificial leaves, our materials are like taking the ‘best parts’ of plants — the leaves — which can create sustainable energy, without needing to use resources to produce parts of plants — the stems and the roots — that need resources but don’t produce energy,” says Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology at Rochester. “We are making a material that is only focused on the sustainable production of energy.”

Close Menu