Second Skin Clothing By Biologic Changes With You

Biologic is a project from MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group that seeks to power inert objects using microorganisms.


(Biologic illustrated)

The investigation, led by Lining Yao of MIT, focuses on how we can grow actuators that control the interfaces around us instead of manufacturing them in a factory. In other words: Yao and her team want to use the natural behavior of certain microorganisms to power objects and interfaces, the same way a motor might.

To power its inventions, BioLogic relies on Bacillus subtilis natto—a bacterium, commonly used in Japanese cooking, that reacts to atmospheric moisture. Like pinecones, these hydromorphic “natto cells” will expand and contract depending on the amount of humidity in the air—the more humidity present, the bigger the bacteria get (the size of an individual cell can change up to 50 percent). With this behavior in mind, Yao partnered with New Balance and designers from the Royal College of Art to create a new type of clothing called Second Skin that becomes more breathable as the wearer’s body heat and humidity increase.

Fans of science fiction may recall the biofabrics from J.G. Ballard's 1970 short story Say Goodbye to the Wind:

The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools. One drawback of bio-fabrics is their extreme sensitivity. Bred originally from the gene stocks of delicate wisterias and mimosas, the woven yard have brought with them something of the vine's remarkable response to atmosphere and touch. The sudden movement of someone nearby, let alone of the wearer, brings an immediate reply from the nerve-like tissues. A dress can change its color and texture in a few seconds, becoming more decollete at the approach of an eager admirer, more formal at a chance meeting with a bank manager.

This sensitivity to mood explains the real popularity of bio-fabrics. Clothes are no longer made from dead fibers of fixed color and texture that can approximate only crudely to the vagrant human figure, but from living tissues that adapt themselves to the contours and personality of the wearer. Other advantages are the continued growth of the materials, fed by the body odours and perspriration of the wearer, the sweet liqueurs distilled from her own pores, and the constant renewal of the fibers, repairing any faults or ladders and eliminating the need for washing.

Be sure to check out Ballard's related term inert-wear.

Via Wired; see also MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group BioLogic .

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