Designer and architect Neri Oxman, working with the Mediated Matter group, has unveiled “Mushtari”: a 3D-printed wearable that can convert sunlight into usable products. Joining the “Wanderer” collection, Mushtari was designed as a relationship between the most primitive and most sophisticated life forms. The wearable contains 58 meters of internal fluid channels and functions as a microbial factory, using synthetic biology to convert sunlight into items for the wearer.
Using a symbiotic relationship between a photosynthetic microbe (e.g. microalgae or cyanobacteria) and compatible microbes (e.g. baker’s yeast or E.coli), Mushtari mimics phenomenon found in nature. The wearer triggers the photosynthetic microbe to produce sucrose (table sugar) using sunlight, which is then converted by the compatible microbes into the desired products, including pigments, drugs, food, fuel or scents.
Using generative growth algorithms, Mushtari was developed with initial geometry and parameters over many iterations. With information guiding the local mesh geometry, variations in material property, as well as attraction and repulsion between mesh vertices, the final form was a single 58m-long channel with diameters between 1mm and 2.5cm. Transparency was mapped to create access points for photosynthetic microbes to receive light.
The 3D printing of Mushtari was accomplished with the collaboration of the Mediated Matter Group and Stratasys, makers of the Object Connex3. The Objet Connex3, a color, multi-material 3D printer typically would dispense gel-like support material which could not be cleared. To create the hollow channels necessary for Mushtari, a liquid support which could be dispensed into channels during printing and subsequently cleared was developed.
Along with Neri Oxman, Mushtari was developed by Will Patrick (lead researcher), Steven Keating and Sunanda Sharma of the Mediated Matter Group; Prof. Pamela Silver and Stephanie Hays of Harvard Medical School; Dr. James Weaver of the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering; and Christoph Bader and Dominik Kolb.