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MIT researchers develop a responsive bio-skin

Out There | November 6, 2015 | By:

MIT skinResearchers in the Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab say they “imagine a world where actuators and sensors can be grown rather than manufactured, derived from nature as opposed to engineered in factories.”

They haven’t just imagined it, they’ve actually done it, and it’s called BioLogic. The researchers have already demonstrated that the bio-skin responds to the body’s heat and sweat.

The bacteria bacillus subtilis natto has been an established fermentation tool for the preparation of nattō, a soybean-based dish in Japan, for centuries. A new behavior of the bacteria has been discovered: the expansion and contraction of the natto cells relative to atmospheric moisture.

“Enchanted by this phenomenon,” the team has been sent on “a quest into the redefinition of actuation,” the group’s website announces. The cells, harvested in a bio lab, are assembled by a micron-resolution bio-printing system, and transformed into a “second skin” where the researchers can observe the self-transforming biological skin activated by living bacteria. The synthetic skin reacts to body heat and sweat, rather dramatically, causing flaps around heat zones to open, enabling sweat to evaporate and cool down the body.

Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab is leading the project in collaboration with MIT Department of Chemical Engineering, Royal College of Art and New Balance.

Photo and Video: Tangible Media Group, MIT

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