Living clothing

18 : 11 : 2015 MIT Media Lab : Lining Yao : Bacteria

Boston – MIT Media Lab graduate student Lining Yao has created clothing embedded with living bacteria.

  • Her project, BioLogic, explores how living bacteria can be used to create actuators
  • Yao worked with New Balance on a clothing line, Second Skin, that has vents powered by the bacteria
BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston
BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston
BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston BioLogic collection by Lining Yao, Boston

Yao, who studies with the Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group has been exploring interfaces and transformations. With BioLogic, she experimented with growing living actuators using a bacteria, Bacillus subtilis natto – used in Japanese cooking for fermentation – and found that the bacteria expands and shrinks based on humidity. 

She then printed the bacteria onto biofilm, and with the help of New Balance and designers from the Royal College of Art, Yao created clothing with the bacteria-embedded fabric, to be used by bodies in motion. As the body heats up, the bacteria reacts to the humidity and the biofilm curls up, creating a ventilation system. As the body cools down, the bacteria expands and the vents shut. ‘It is an eco-system between clothes and the human body,’ says Yao.

The Big Picture

Designers are experimenting with bacteria and its potential outside of traditional sciences. For more, see our Whole-system Thinking macrotrend. 

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