In another one of their "how is this real?" engineers breakthroughs, the MIT Media Lab has created something to literally make your skin crawl. Their latest project is a "living second skin" which they got the idea from the bacteria "bacillus subtilis natto." The ancient bacteria, discovered by Japanese Samurai a thousand years ago, responds to sweat and body heat. In fact, the greater the humidity the bacteria are exposed to, the larger the cells expand. Intrigued by their properties, two MIT scientists Lining Yao and Hiroshi Ishii delved deeper into the bacteria and eventually were about to turn the cells into a series of biofilms that curled, straightened out or according to the alignment the scientists created.
Yao and her “BioLogic” team dubbed the cells “living actuators”— as they are living cells that are grown and not manufactured in a lab.
Following breakthroughs, the researchers were able to place the biofilm onto spandex and in follow up experiments were able to create a set of activewear like garments that self-ventilate through tiny “fins” that open and close in sync with the wearer’s body temperature and humidity.
According to the researchers, “The synthetic bio-skin reacts to body heat and sweat, causing flaps around heat zones to open, enabling sweat to evaporate and cool down the body through an organic material flux,” Yao wrote about the project. “In collaboration with New Balance, BioLogic is bringing what once may have lived in the realm of fantasies into the world of sportswear.”
There is still a long way to go, but it seems like the breakthrough at MIT means that on day we will be able to grow our own clothing from bacteria. How cool and conscious is that?