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Microbial Self-healing Materials



As we step into the fast-paced world of fashion, the demand for sustainable materials goes beyond the obvious. The need for new solutions to prolong the life cycle of garments has become a hot topic.


Amidst this demand, a unique concept has emerged - one that possesses the power of microbial self-healing.


In a multidisciplinary approach, Centre for Young Synbio Scientists researcher Manuel Arias Barrantes is exploring this highly futuristic field. Barrantes is specialized in interdisciplinary material research, and in addition to working with cell factories, he is bridging the gap between science and design.


  Manuel Arias Barrantes: Microbial Self-healing Materials

According to Barrantes, the problem he is trying to solve is to "avoid the production of new materials due to the wear and tear that usually happens when we use materials in different products or garments." He is focusing on the topic of engineered living materials and then looking into how cells could be engineered to make this material so autonomous. He envisions a world where materials could be self-healing, and the cells in the material could regenerate or grow back in case they are broken.


"Materials in these bio-based materials, the living properties of it are killed as part of the process," says Barrantes. "But what if we could create these materials, engineering the cells so that by activating this material, sometimes they will be able to, let's say, regenerate or like grow back in case they are broken."

Barrantes has been conducting a series of experiments using different cells for all the different microbes, such as fungi or algae, for instance. Through his practical work, he aims to build a methodology for designers interested in working with these living organisms in the laboratory, which will allow them to guide their own creative processes.


"Self-healing living materials may sound like science fiction, but the vast possibilities offered by microbes and the tools of synthetic biology have proven to be a real inspiration for scientists - boldly re-imagining the post-fossil world," notes the Centre for Young Synbio Scientists.

According to Barrantes, these materials could have a variety of applications in our daily lives.


"In the future, these sorts of materials will be present for, for instance, in our homes, as panels for sequestering carbon or what if our clothes could react to the temperature?"

Self-healing living materials have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about sustainability and the longevity of the materials we use in our daily lives. As the demand for sustainable materials continues to grow, it will be exciting to see how Barrantes' research develops and how it will impact the future of material design and engineering.


This project contributes to the following UN sustainability goals:

  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - The project focuses on innovative interdisciplinary material research, exploring the development of self-healing living materials using synthetic biology. This aligns with the goal of fostering sustainable industrialization and promoting technological advancements for more sustainable production and consumption.

  • Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production - By investigating engineered living materials and their potential to extend the life cycle of garments and products through self-healing properties, the project addresses the need to reduce waste and promote sustainable consumption patterns.

  • Goal 13: Climate Action - The project's potential applications, such as using self-healing materials for carbon sequestration and energy-efficient clothing, contribute to addressing climate change impacts and promoting solutions for a more sustainable future.

  • Goal 14: Life Below Water and Goal 15: Life on Land - The project's use of microbes, fungi, and algae aligns with these goals by exploring biologically inspired solutions that could positively impact both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals - The project's multidisciplinary approach and collaboration between scientific research and design bridge the gap between fields, fostering partnerships and knowledge-sharing to drive sustainable innovation.



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