A material made from 3D printing could aid in the mitigation of pollution.

Share this story

Plastic waste is a growing problem that needs to be addressed urgently. With over 350 million metric tons of plastic waste generated globally each year, it is clear that steps must be taken to clean up and recycle the pollution that is overwhelming our environment. Water pollution is a particular concern, as hazardous materials like plastics find their way into rivers, lakes, oceans, and other water sources on a daily basis.

Fortunately, researchers at UC San Diego have developed a groundbreaking solution to tackle this issue. They have created a 3D printed living material, known as “engineered living material”, which has the potential to clean up our world. This material is made of a seaweed polymer called alginate, combined with a genetically engineered cyanobacteria. The bacteria is designed to produce enzymes that break down harmful materials into non-harmful molecules, effectively decontaminating the environment.

The unique combination of the seaweed alginate and bacteria creates a living material that can respond to stimuli in ways that synthetic materials cannot. This makes it highly efficient and promising for future applications. The researchers have 3D printed a grid or waffle-shaped structure that provides the most nutrients to the bacteria while maximizing its decontaminating surface area.

The bacteria inside the living material secretes an enzyme called laccase, which has been shown in previous studies to neutralize pollutants such as BPA, a major chemical in polycarbonate plastics. It has also successfully broken down antibiotics and other pharmaceutical waste. In the current tests, the enzyme was able to break down indigo carmine, a dye commonly used in denim clothing, which can be a pollutant in water sources.

To address concerns about the spread of potentially dangerous bacteria, the researchers have equipped the bacteria with a self-destruct mechanism. When exposed to theophylline, a molecule found in tea or chocolate, the bacteria is destroyed from the inside. This ensures that genetically modified bacteria do not linger in the environment.

The research team aims to modify the bacteria to eventually destroy itself without direct intervention, responding to stimuli already present in the environment. The successful experiments at UC San Diego were a result of collaboration between biologists, engineers, and materials scientists.

This breakthrough opens up new possibilities for the creation of more 3D printed materials that can help repair the planet and eliminate waste. It is an exciting development in the fight against plastic pollution, and one that holds great promise for a cleaner and healthier future.

What are your thoughts on this 3D printed living material? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media pages. Stay updated with the latest 3D printing news by signing up for our free weekly Newsletter. You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

Cover Photo Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Original source

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *