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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R003629/1
Title: Design the Future 2: Thinking Soils: Engineered bacteria as computational agents in the design and manufacture of new materials and structures
Principal Investigator: Dade-Robertson, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Wipat, Professor A Mitrani, Dr H
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arup (Ove Arup and Partners Ltd) (UK) Cornell University Delft University of Technology
NTNU Nor Uni of Sci & Tech (Remove) Powerbetter Environmental Processes University of California, Berkeley
University of Waterloo (Canada)
Department: Sch of Architect, Planning & Landscape
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2017 Ends: 31 October 2020 Value (£): 598,309
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Engineering Synthetic biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Jun 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 June 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The proposal anticipates a new era of fabrication driven by Synthetic Biology and our ability to manipulate living organisms to make new materials and structures. We are also going beyond the usual application domains of Synthetic Biology by applying it to Civil Engineering, expanding design methods and opening up a new area of Engineering Design.

To achieve this we will develop a living material which can respond to physical forces in its environment through the synthesis of strengthening materials. This concept is partly biomimetic inspired by for example the way in which our bones strengthen, becoming more dense under repeated load. However, we are also proposing to buid this system using living bacteria cells which have no such functional requirement in nature.

Imagine a hydrogel (jelly) containing billions of engineered bacteria. A weight is placed on top of the jelly and, as it is loaded the bacteria in the material sense the mechanical changes in their environment and begin to induce mineral crystals to form. As they make this material the jelly stiffens and strengthens to resist the load. By the end of this project we will be able to demonstrate this principle creating an entirely novel living material. We are working with project partners from across industry and academia to develop this proof of concept and to investigate the broad applications of such a technology to, for example, create self constructing building foundations and make large scale structures where it is very difficult to build using traditional buildings and materials.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk