The broken screen of the mobile phone can repair itself, and the “living” material is expected to become a reality of science fiction

Can a broken mobile phone screen repair itself like skin? Can a covered cup digest food like a stomach? Do you wear clothes that perceive your surroundings like your skin? …… The latest research results by the team of Yu Ziyi, a professor at the State Key Laboratory of Materials Chemical Engineering at Nanjing University of Technology, and Tuomas Knowles, a professor at the University of Cambridge in the UK, are expected to bring these imaginations to life.

3D printing to construct living catalytic materials Photo courtesy of the research group

Recently, the relevant research results of the two teams were published in Nature Communications with the title of “Bioprinting of Living Functional Materials Based on Protein Particle Hydrogels”. Professors Yu Ziyi and Tuomas Knowles are co-corresponding authors.

Living functional materials are the product of the cross-integration of materials science and synthetic biology, which is of great significance to the development of future living materials. Yu Ziyi told China Science News that the research has made two major breakthroughs – “one is to give the material catalytic ‘activity’, which greatly improves the biotransformation efficiency of cells; the other is to provide a research paradigm that can be used for reference, which can be extended to the preparation of living materials with emerging functions such as self-repair and biosensing.” ”

They developed a protein-based cellular microcarrier and constructed it into a living material with catalytic characteristics, enabling efficient biosynthesis of phenylethanol molecules. “The live cell components in the biotransformation reactor expand the ‘circle of friends’ and greatly improve the conversion rate of substances.” Yu Ziyi said.

He used an analogy, if the protein-based microcarrier is compared to an eggshell, in the past, inactive ingredients were injected or the injected active cells were limited to a fixed position, and their results are outstanding in that there are not only active cells in the eggshell, but also active cells can move freely, forming a “mutual aid cooperation group”, which enhances biological activity during information exchange.

Compared with traditional materials, this living material can not only use the characteristics of cells to catalyze reactions to achieve biomanufacturing, but also has higher efficiency, better specificity and lower waste generation than traditional chemical catalysts, and realizes green production using the functions of cellular organisms. Experiments show that this technological breakthrough has increased the production of phenethanol from the original 1g/l to 12g/l, and the efficiency has increased by 12 times.

Zhang Yang, a master of Southern University of Technology, a co-author of the paper, told China Science News that the cell microcarrier compared to an eggshell can also be understood as a boat-like carrier, which can be loaded with different life elements (microorganisms) according to different needs, form different active functions, and then 3D print into different shapes.

“The findings provide a new research paradigm for green biomanufacturing.” Yu Ziyi said that according to this research idea, the mobile phone screen built with active functional materials, after the mobile phone screen is accidentally broken, microorganisms can sense the damage and start the self-repair function, and return everyone to a complete mobile phone screen.

It is reported that the research results have realized the separation of cell microenvironment and carrier materials, which provides ideas for the construction of new living functional materials, 3D organ printing and other fields, which is expected to promote the development of green bioeconomy in the fields of medicine, biofuels, environmental governance and food industry. (Source: China Science News, Wen Caifei, Yang Fang)

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