Scientists Create Living Ink Incorporated with Bacteria

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Scientists have created living materials using ink containing bacteria, according to a new study published on December 4, 2017.

A team of scientists from ETH Zürich University, embedded bacteria into a 3D printing ink to develop functional living ink. The team named the ink Flink, which is known to have a variety of potential applications such as decomposition of chemical pollutants and development of skin grafts.

“Printing using bacteria-containing hydrogels has enormous potential, as there is such a wide range of useful bacteria out there,” said Dr Patrick Rühs, co-author of the study. Contrary to the popular belief that bacteria are associating with diseases, the team incorporated harmless bacteria in their study. Scientists used two species of bacteria for printing, including cellulose-producing bacteria. Cellulose, a natural compound, can be used to create supportive framework for skin transplants, or to aid in organ transplantation.

The team demonstrated the workings of their ink for personalized cellulose scaffolds by covering the uneven surface of a doll’s face with a film of Flink.

They also incorporated a bacteria species that is known to decompose the toxic pollutant phenol, into their new ink. Thus making the ink efficient enough to decompose pollutants such as phenol and produce cellulose. Furthermore, Flink has potential application for creating sensors with the ability to detect toxins in drinking water and filters to clean up oil spills.

Further research is required so as to achieve the success in the aforementioned applications, however, the team is confident that bacteria could make a valuable addition to many materials. “As bacteria require very little in the way of resources, we assume they can survive in printed structures for a very long time,” said Dr Rühs.

This development has the potential to replace all kinds of non-living inks, owing to the various benefits offered by the use of living ink on various materials.

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