Materials Science

Carnivorous Cloth

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Science  20 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6066, pp. 264
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6066.264-b

The surface of most objects exposed to the environment eventually becomes colonized by living microrganisms, which may have a variety of, but not necessarily malign, effects. For example, edible molds form coatings on cheese which impart delicious odors and flavors and protect the interior from invasion by spoilage organisms. Taking inspiration from camembert, Gerber et al. have developed a living fabric composed of a base layer of impermeable polymer and a nanoporous surface film sandwiching agar inoculated with the mold Penicillium roqueforti. The pore size of the surface film was adjusted to prevent release of mold spores but allow ingress of gases and nutrients. If food (glucose) was “spilt” onto the experimental fabric, the mold grew as it consumed the stain, changing the opacity of the material. The fabric was fairly resistant to being rinsed by ethanol or washed by soap, but desiccation did inhibit growth. The drawback: It took 11 days for the mold to consume the glucose, but perhaps that's okay if you are waiting for your favorite tie to clean itself. More significantly, such fabrics have obvious bioremediation or biomedical applications, especially if, for instance, antibiotic-producing molds can be incorporated.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 90 (2012).

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