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Self-repairing 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, VTT's Centre for Young Synbio Scientists researcher Manuel Arias Barrantes is exploring this highly futuristic field. Manuel is specialized in interdisciplinary material research, and in addition to working with cell factories, he is bridging the gap between science and design.




According to Manuel, 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 autonomous. He envisions a world where materials could be self-repairing, and the cells in the material could regenerate or grow back in case they are broken.


"With current bio-based materials, living properties are killed or lost as part of the process. But what if we could engineer cells to create materials that could go into dormant states but when broken or worn out, they could be able to regenerate or grow back. Just as it happens naturally with plants." says Manuel. 

Manuel has been conducting a series of experiments using different cells for different microbes, such as fungi or algae. 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-repairing 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 Manuel Arias Barrantes.

According to Manuel, 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 Manuel's research develops and how it will impact the future of material design and engineering.


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