Taking Engineering Cues From Life Science

Taking Engineering Cues From Life Science

In the famous case of Dr. Frankenstein, his reanimated creature ran afoul of the villagers because it had difficulty adjusting to its new environment. It’s a lesson not lost on the latest team of researchers hoping to create new life forms in the laboratory. Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing living/nonliving hybrid materials specifically designed to adapt.

MIT assistant professor Timothy Lu said the team’s mash-up of living and nonliving materials could create exciting new options for solar cells, medical diagnostics, waste management systems, and more.

Lu’s colleagues have developed bacterial cells that express biofilms that incorporate gold nanoparticles, quantum dots, or other useful – but nonliving – materials. In other words, these structures possess the adaptability and complexity of living things while performing functions like emitting light or conducting electricity.

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