students doing work in the lab

With this new technology, 3D printing has come to life…literally

If humans are to live on Mars or the moon one day, we’ll need to be able to construct buildings to live, sleep, eat, and work in space. The way to do that, space agencies have said, is to 3D-print habitats or their components. But hauling enough of the Earth-derived materials used for most 3D printing from our planet to another celestial body isn’t a feasible option.

Biology could solve that problem, says Neel Joshi, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern. And Joshi’s team may have devised just the technology for the job: a 3D-printable material that is alive.

“Like a tree has cells embedded within it and it goes from a seed to a tree by assimilating resources from its surroundings in order to enact these structure-building programs, what we want to do is a similar thing, but where we provide those programs in the form of DNA that we write and genetic engineering,” Joshi says.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University.

Chemistry and Chemical Biology