A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a workout suit with ventilating flaps that open and close in response to your body heat during workout. The flaps in the suit are lined with living microbial cells that act as sensors and actuators, and they drive the flaps to open in the suit when they sense heat and sweat and close when your body has cooled off. The researchers also have experimented putting the same living cells into the soles of running shoes to remove heat and moisture.
“We can combine our cells with genetic tools to introduce other functionalities into these living cells,” explains Wen Wang, the lead author of the study, in a news release. “We use fluorescence as an example, and this can let people know you are running in the dark. In the future we can combine odor-releasing functionalities through genetic engineering. So maybe after going to the gym, the shirt can release a nice-smelling odor.”
Researchers note that the cells they have used are the non-pathogenic strain of E. coli which harnesses the suit’s humidity-sensing ability. These microbial cells are durable and proven to be safe to touch and even consume. Furthermore, the cells can also be programmed to express multiple functionalities in addition to moisture response; and researchers have tried engineering the cells to glow fluorescent green in the dark when they sense moisture.
Other potential uses include designing suits for soldiers, especially the ones deployed in hot and cold environments, and for people with hyperhidrosis – a condition which causes people to sweat excessively. Researchers also say they could look into making moisture-responsive curtains, lampshades, and bedsheets.
Watch the biofabric in action in the video below.
Source/Reference: MIT | Harnessing the hygroscopic and biofluorescent behaviors of genetically tractable microbial cells to design biohybrid wearables. Science Advances, 2017. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601984