Scientists have come up with a new variety of 3-D ink having a surprise ingredient – live bacteria. Labelled the “living ink,” materials created from it could clean up pollution, produce medical supplies, and harvest energy through photosynthesis, reveal researchers in a report published in Science Advances recently.
Concoction of Living Ink
As far as the composition of the living ink is concerned, it is a polymer mix named a hydrogel which is mixed with bacteria and a broth of nutrients that enable bacterial cells to grow and reproduce. The bacteria will eventually consume all of what the hydrogel has to offer. However, the ink has a porous structure and hence dipping a 3-D printed form in more broth can replenish with nutrients thereby enabling the bacteria to grow more.
Bacteria Has Potential to Clean Oil Spills and Filter Water
In one experiment, the scientists printed a grid with a type of bacteria named Pseudomonas putida that consume chemical phenol, which is considered hazardous. They then put this lattice in water contaminated with phenol. It was noticed that the bacteria purified the water totally within a couple of days’ time.
This goes on to show the potential of 3-D printing to eliminate toxic chemicals, which the scientists suggest could be used for creating water filters, or on a much larger scale tackling oil spills. One more advantage – cells locked in a 3-D grid can be removed from cleaned-up water and used elsewhere again, unlike free-floating bacteria.
One drawback of the method, as pointed by a German scientist unrelated to the research, is that scaling up might be difficult in commercial applications as the lattices printed for the purpose of the study were just centimeters across.