School of Computing

Projects

Computational Colloids: Engineered bacteria as computational agents in the design and manufacture of new materials and structures

This project investigates how Civil Engineering may be integrated with the emerging field of Synthetic Biology. Combining these fields has potentially transformative implications for both and may generate a new field of Engineering Design.

Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resisting the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require.

We propose a proof of concept to show how we might design a manufacturing process where the material itself acts as manufacturer and designer, modelling and responding to its environment. Such a technology would push well beyond the current state of the art and challenge a new generation of engineering designers to think at multiple scales from molecular to the built environment and to anticipate civil engineering with living organisms.