MIT researchers are making computers out of live bacteria

Quartz | 12/7/2017 | Karen Hao
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In the future, you could be eating cancer-detecting robots in much the same way you take your morning vitamins.

Researchers at MIT have created a new responsive material that can change along with its environment, using living cells that act like basic computers. The technique uses genetically engineered bacteria—fine-tuned to respond to various stimuli—that can be 3D-printed into any shape.

Approach - Inventions - First - Researchers - Kind

The new approach required two inventions: First, the researchers had to create a new kind of printable ink in which bacteria can live for long stretches of time. To do so, they made a gel formula with a toothpaste-like consistency that mixes water and nutrients to sustain the cells. Second, the researchers built a custom 3D printer that can precisely print their new ink onto surfaces.

To test the material, the researchers altered some bacteria to change color upon encountering particular chemicals. They modified three groups of bacteria to respond to three different chemicals and printed them into a tree-like structure. From there, they coated someone’s hand with those chemicals and applied the structure like a press-on tattoo. Over the course of several hours, the tree’s branches lit up in different colors as each bacterial group registered its corresponding chemical. These results were published Dec. 5 in the journal Advanced Materials.


The researchers...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Quartz
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