Special Seminar - Chao Zhong (Assistant Professor, ShanghaiTech University, Shanghai, China)
Many biological material systems—such as skeletal tissues, marine adhesives and biofilms—grow, self-repair and adapt to the environment and possess distinctive ‘living' attributes that are beyond the reach of the vast majority of existing synthetic materials. Harnessing these attributes to create dynamic, environmentally responsive, and tunable ‘living functional materials' therefore is of keen interest but remains challenging in the field of bio-inspired materials. In this talk, I will introduce our recent efforts in creating a highly flexible and tunable living functional materials platform based on engineered bacterial biofilms (E. coli or Bacillus subtilis biofilms) by leveraging the power of synthetic biology. We show that such programmable bacterial biofilms enable a radically different paradigm of materials synthesis and performance, and provide new opportunities for constructing smart multifunctional materials and nanotechnologies. Specific examples demonstrated thus far include but not limited to: (1) engineered light-sensing bacterial respond to produce patterned biofilms upon programmable light exposure, allowing templated assembly of inorganic nano-objects with spatial control, (2) living bacterial biofilm/inorganic hybrid material systems for catalysis and artificial photosynthesis, and (3) smart living cellular glues for autonomous repairs. Notably, the engineered biofilms have the viscoelastic behaviors of hydrogels and can be precisely fabricated into microstructures having a diversity of three-dimensional (3D) shapes using 3D printing and microencapsulation techniques. This new tunable platform offers previously unattainable properties for a variety of living functional materials having applications in biomaterials, biotechnology, bioenergy and biomedicine.