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United Matters
Sarah Graham

The Living Factory

3D viewing room
The bacterial composite glasses growing
Sarah Graham
This project is part of United Matters

An exploration of a nacre inspired bacterial composite for use in the sportswear industry.
How can we create innovative composite materials possessing comparable properties to synthetics through low energy processing with the use of non-petroleum and more natural based components?

High performance composite materials combine two or more materials in a way that allows them to retain their original properties while constructing a material superior to either constituent on its own. They are widely used across many industries, including sportswear. Their applications demand a lightweight, resilient material that is currently achieved by using highly toxic and difficult to break down materials such as epoxy resins and thermoplastics.

Employing additive microbial manufacturing, I have combined the metabolic processes of two bacteria: S. Pasteruii - a calcite precipitating bacteria and B. licheniformis - a bacteria that excretes a biopolymer into one structurally advanced material. The inorganic mineral and biopolymer grow in alternating layers to build a ‘brick and mortar’ nanostructure that mimics natural nacre. This tessellated structure gives the material a high resilience to fracture and increases its toughness by three thousand to that of just the mineral alone.