The engineered living materials (ELMs) exploit biology’s ability to heal and replenish material and could respond to damage in harsh environments using a sense-and-response system. This work, published in Nature Communications, could lead to the creation of real-world materials that detect and heal their own damage, such as fixing a crack in a windshield, a tear in the fuselage of an aircraft or a pothole in the road. By integrating the building blocks into self-healing building materials, scientists could reduce the amount of maintenance needed and extend a material’s life and usefulness. Lead author Professor Tom Ellis of the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial says that “in the past we’ve created living materials with inbuilt sensors that can detect environmental cues and changes. Now we’ve created living materials that can detect damage and respond to it by healing themselves.” In the same way that architecture uses modular pieces that can be assembled into a variety of building structures, this research demonstrates that the same principle can be applied to the design and construction of bacterial cellulose-based materials.
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