Hybrid Living Materials

The Mediated Matter Group


Hybrid Living Materials (HLMs) point to an exciting future for designers at the intersection of biology and technology—the grown and the made—to deliver products that are customized to a particular shape, as well as a specific material, chemical, and even genetic make-up. The HLM platform incorporates engineerable cells into structural materials to bequeath them with unique biological and responsive properties. We interface a digital design platform with engineered bacteria to achieve programmable control of gene expression across the surface of 3D printed objects. We use this technology to create brilliant color and fluorescence patterns on wearable scale objects. With the ability to plan gene expression and 3D-geometry in a CAD environment, researchers and designers alike can program biological function into physical objects. HLMs, extended to patterning drugs to medical devices or useful enzymes to building skins, can make a future tailored to both body and environment.
This work is published in Advanced Functional Materials (https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.201907401) and has been featured in the London Design Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, and The Museum of Modern Art NY.


Team: Rachel Soo Hoo Smith, Christoph Bader, Sunanda Sharma, Dominik Kolb, Tzu‐Chieh Tang, Ahmed Hosny, Felix Moser, James C. Weaver, Christopher A. Voigt, and Prof. Neri Oxman.
This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, GETTYLAB, the DARPA Engineered Living Materials agreement, the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, and the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative. The authors thank N. Kaempfer and B. Belocon at Stratasys Ltd., the W.M. Keck Microscopy Facility, and N. Jakimo.

The Mediated Matter Group focuses on Nature-inspired Design and Design-inspired Nature. Our research area, Material Ecology, integrates computational form-finding strategies with biologically inspired fabrication tools and technologies. Our research lies at the intersection of computer science, material engineering, and synthetic biology. We apply ourselves to design across scales with the objective to enhance the relation between natural and man-made environments. We strive to rethink the future of designs that interface the body, the building, and ecology in the bio-digital age.