Biomaterials at the Interface between Technology and Life Sciences

Fiorenzo Omenetto | Giusy Matzeu | Laia Mogas Soldevila | Silklab

A research by Silklab.

The Silklab invents, designs, and manufactures living materials and products for the future. Innovate is based on advanced material processing and the manufacture of sustainable carbon-neutral technologies to imagine a new class of applications for living materials that operate seamlessly at the interface between the biological and the technological worlds.

Structural proteins are nature’s building blocks, conferring stiffness, structure, and function to ordinarily soft biological materials. Such proteins are polymorphic, which allows for control of the end material format through their natural self-assembly. The resulting biomaterials and composites can be simultaneously “technological” (e.g., mechanically robust, micro- and nanostructured, high-performing) and “biological” (e.g., living, adaptable, bio-functional, bio-sensing) making them ideally suited for applications at the interface between these two domains.

Specifically, computational design and hybrid fabrication methods (e.g., 2.5D printing, inkjet printing, screen-printing and specialized molding) provide a great opportunity to structure and transform silk-based biomaterial blends into personal objects and architectures with unexpected functions and an element of surprise. The Silklab is currently developing objects that are digitally derived and biologically sensitive – able to communicate with their surroundings by tracking and displaying human health, athletic performance, changes in mood and stress, or environmental pollution levels.

The softness, elegance, emotion, and polymorphic properties of silk and silk protein allow for the conception of a wide range of product and architectural design applications with high levels of both functional performance and surprising aesthetics.

Biomedical devices were developed by Silklab scientists and interactive design products are developed by the architect Laia Mogas Soldevila and the engineer Giusy Matzeu at the Tufts University Living Materials Silklab, led by Dr. Fiorenzo Omenetto. Design objects have been exhibited at BioFabricate NY and MaterFAD Barcelona. Materials and methods are part of a current effort to bridge science, technology, and art with the design and fabrication of living-material everyday products. Commissioned and supported in part by the Art and Science seed fund from the Office of the President at Tufts and the U.S. Office of Naval Research and performed in collaboration with the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.