3D printed synthetic biological material

Biological material could be 3D printed to create self-healing shoes:

Biological material could be 3D printed to create self-healing shoes

Biological material could be 3D printed to create self-healing shoes

Shoes as we know them are a pretty modern invention, and a lot of research has gone into creating more comfortable, high-performance materials to cover one’s feet. Even the most advanced rubber-soled shoe can’t compare to the concept being proposed by London designer and researcher Shamees Aden. These shoes would be 3D printed from synthetic biological material for the perfect fit, and they could repair themselves overnight.

The process would start with a 3D scan of the wearer’s foot. This would be used to print the “shoe,” which should conform perfectly to all the curves and lines of the scanned appendage. As for the material that it’s being printed with, that’s what makes the idea so intriguing.

Aden is working with Dr. Martin Hanczyc from the University of Southern Denmark. Dr. Hanczyc works with protocells, one of the most basic biological constructs. A protocell is not quite alive — it’s essentially a lipid membrane containing a collection of organic molecules that may have some biological activity. These structures can self assemble under the right circumstances, so there is great interest in the roll these almost-cells could have played in the appearance of life on Earth, a process known as abiogenesis.

protocell

Printing a foot covering out of protocells would allow for precise control of cushioning and support. The shoes could also react to different situations as they come by puffing up in places for added comfort. At the end of the day, the protocell shoe could be soaked in a solution the help the structures repair themselves.

This is obviously still just a concept — we don’t even have industrial scale biological printing. Even when we do, printing a semi-living shoes probably won’t be high on the to-do list.

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