Samurai Bacteria Shall Be Embedded in NB etextiles
Lining Yao, Wen Wang, Guanyun Wang, Helene Steiner, Chin-Yi Cheng, Jifei Ou, Oksana Anilionyte, Hiroshi Ishii / 2015
bioLogic is growing living actuators and synthesizing responsive bio-skin in the era where bio is the new interface. We are Imagining a world where actuators and sensors can be grown rather than manufactured, being derived from nature as opposed to engineered in factories.
A millennium ago, a Japanese samurai’s quest into battle took an unexpected turn. An abrupt attack in the midst of an evening meal led to a surprising culinary discovery. What was found on his journey was a previously undiscovered bacteria, Bacillus Subtilis natto. The microorganism lived inside dry rice stalks, which were woven into bags to carry soybeans in that age. Ever since this coincidental unearthing, the mysterious bacteria has become an established fermentation tool for the preparation of nattō, a soybean-based dish in Japan.
A thousand years into the future, a new behavior of the ancient bacteria has been unearthed: the expansion and contraction of the natto cells relative to atmospheric moisture. Enchanted by this phenomenon, a quest into the redefinition of actuation has become the ambition of the bioLogic team.
bioLogic seeks a harmonious perspective, where biological and engineering approaches flow in sync. These animate cells are harvested in a bio lab, assembled by a micron-resolution bio-printing system, and transformed into responsive fashion, a “Second Skin”. We can now observe the self-transforming biological skin activated by living bacteria. 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. In collaboration with New Balance, bioLogic is bringing what once may have lived in the realm of fantasies into the world of sportswear.
- Lining Yao, concept creation, interaction design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab.
- Wen Wang, biotechnology and material science, MIT Dept. of Chemical Engineering
- Guanyun Wang, industrial design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab/Zhejiang University
- Helene Steiner, interaction design, MIT Media Lab/Royal College of Art
- Chin-Yi Cheng, computational design and simulation, MIT Architecture
- Jifei Ou, concept design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab
- Oksana Anilionyte, fashion design, MIT Media Lab/Royal College of Art
- Prof. Hiroshi Ishii, direction, Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab
Beyond “Second Skin”, the bio-hybrid film can be utilized in other contexts as well: Bio-hybrid flowers blossom and wilt reversible with both shape and color changing; a living tea leaf signals through transformation when the tea is ready; or a lampshade sculpts light activated by the light bulb. Imagination unfolds the power of the tiny bacteria.
MIT Media Lab's BioLogic material opens and closes in response to humidity
4 November 2015
Teams from MIT Media Lab and the Royal College of Art have used bacteria to design a "bio-skin" fabric that peels back in reaction to sweat and humidity (+ slideshow).
Clothes created from the BioLogic fabric have vents that open in response to sweat
The BioLogic fabric relies on bacteria reportedly discovered 1,000 years ago by a Japanese samurai. The Bacillus Subtilis microorganism has since been used to ferment foods in Japan, including natto – a soybean-based dish.
As the wearer sweats the material covering the vents peels back
Teams from the MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group and Royal College of Art have used the bacteria's ability to expand and contract in reaction to moisture, and developed a method for incorporating it into material that can be used for garments.
"We're starting to build up an automatic printing system in which fresh cells can be assembled on a thin fabric," said MIT Media Lab's Jifei Ou. "The different expansion and contraction level of the new materials creates a variety of bending behaviours in space and time."
A film released by the lab demonstrates how clothes constructed from the fabric could contain diamond-shaped openings covered in two flaps. These flaps peel back once the wearer starts to warm up, providing additional ventilation and helping them to cool down.
Vents will fold back into place once humidity levels are lowered
"In addition to a single bending structure different printing patterns and material combinations enable us to create more complex transformations," said interaction designer Helene Steiner.
By embedding heating circuits, the material could be controlled by electric signals. Further uses for the cells include a steam-activated teabag label, bio-hybrid flowers that can open and close their petals, and colour-changing fabric.
"Fashion is changing and this project is part of it," said fashion designer Oksana Anilionyte. "I believe it's time where we think the way we create fashion and the reason behind it."
"The Biologic project enables us to explore new innovative materials combined with traditional garment-making techniques."
"The designs are inspired by the natto cells' response to different body parts, and that creates really fine flat movements," she added. "The experience of wearing these garments is very special because they come to life once you start wearing them."
The team is reportedly working with sports brand New Balance on ways to incorporate the fabric into sportswear.
Other designers are working with bacteria on everything from lab-grown typography, to bio-luminescent lamps and wearable objects made of bacterially-grown material stretched over a framework.
Image by Rob Chron.