Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created a new process for 3D printing living microbes in controlled patterns, furthering the possibility of using engineered bacteria to recover rare-earth metals, detect uranium, clean wastewater, and more.
Through a unique method that uses bacteria and light-infused resin to create 3D patterned microbes,
the team successfully printed artificial biofilms resembling the thin layers of microbial communities commonplace in the real world.
The bacteria were suspended in photosensitive resins and then “trapped” in 3D structures using LED light from an LLNL-designed stereolithographic apparatus for microbial bioprinting (SLAM) 3D printer.
The printing machine can print at high res on the order of 18 microns is almost as thin as the diameter of a human cell.
These findings were published in the Journal Nano letters
Moreover, it proved that the technology can be used to design structurally defined microbial communities.
it also established the application of 3D-printed biofilms for rare earth mining and uranium biosensing and showed the relationship between geometry and the performance of the printed materials.
” We are defining new boundaries of 3D microbial culturing technology,” says lead researcher and LLNL bioengineer William Hynes.
Furthermore, how underrated the space is and the potential of 3D microbial culturing technology is not fully understood yet.
A new way to understand microbes
The team is working to produce tools and processes that researchers can use to better investigate how microbes act in geometrically complex yet highly controlled conditions by accessing and advancing applied approaches with better control over the 3D structure of the microbial populations.
we can influence how they relate to each other and improve system performance in a biomanufacturing production process.
Microbial behaviours are a simple yet complex process and are guided by spatiotemporal attributes of their surrounding.
This includes the geometric organization of microbial community members.
How microbes are arranged can effectively affect a range of behaviours.
including when and how they grow. how they cooperate, eat, and defend themselves from competitors, and which molecules they produce.
Past methods of developing biofilms in labs provided researchers with almost no control over microbial organization within the film.
placing understanding constraints on complex interactions within bacterial communities in the natural world,Bioprinting microbes in 3D would enable LLNL researchers to better observe how bacteria act in their natural state
Presently, microbial electrosynthesis( a state where electron-eating bacteria transform surplus electricity during odd-peak hours to create biochemicals and biofuels), is limited because interfacing between electrodes and bacteria is ineffective.
However, By 3d printing microbes in devices mixed with conductive materials, engineers can attain a highly conductive biomaterial that has an enhanced electrode microbe interface,
ensuring more efficient electrosynthesis systems.
The efficiency of 3D printing
A research experiment compared the recovery rate of rare-earth material in varying bioprinted patterns
and showed that the cells printed in a 3D grid can absorb metal ions better than regular bulk hydrogels.
The team also printed living uranium sensors.
LLNL researchers are continuing to work on developing more complex 3D lattices,
and creating new resins with better printing and biological performance.
The team is also decided how to best fine-tune bioprinted electrode geometry for improving mass transport of nutrients and products through the system.
Source: Nano letters