Specialists in art, design and robotics have been working together to explore ways in which live biological materials might be exploited to bring about movement or shape changes in physical objects.
Peter Walters from the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, and colleagues, have created a novel, biologically-driven actuator: an “artificial heartbeat”, powered by live biological material.
Pneumatic pressure released by live yeast causes a membrane to distend. Movement of the membrane is controlled by a valve activated by electricity produced by a microbial fuel cell. When the membrane is fully distended, the valve opens to release pressure, returning the actuator to its state of rest for another actuation cycle.
A 3D printer created the structure of the bio-actuator, the rigid components and also made the moulds used to cast flexible components in silicone elastomer material. 3D printing technologies enable physical objects to be fabricated directly from computer. Here the 3D printing process used in the fabrication of the bio-actuator is photopolymer jetting developed by Objet (now Stratasys) in which a liquid photopolymer resin is deposited by inkjet printing and immediately cured by ultraviolet light.
This biologically-driven actuator will serve as a proof-or-concept “artificial heartbeat” for future use within bio-robotic art and design.
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