Course Blog

Plass – Materials that die

Plastic is omnipresent, there are nine billion tonnes of plastic in the world [1], more than one tonne for every human alive right now. 91% of this plastic is not recycled [2], leading to 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic in the ocean alone [3]. Furthermore, the plastic industry will keep on growing and is expected to be worth $654.38 Billion by 2020 [4]. We envision ourselves as Plass, one of the big players in bio plastics in a near future where 3D printing has become a household commodity [10].

We offer different kinds of 3D printed agar-based biodegradable plastic with embedded bacteria in a process first pioneered by the ETH Zürich [5]. By injecting spores of our modified bacterium Bacillus subtilis spp. plass [6] into a hydrogel ink solution to 3D print objects, we manage to create a material that has a finite life. The activation of the spores can be fine-tuned by the concentration of germination agents in the material, making it possible for us to control how fast the spores get activated. After enough spores have been activated, the material starts to degrade. Because the spores are stored in an anaerobic environment, atmospheric exposure (like a crack or a hole in the material) causes premature spore activation and cell division leading to material degradation. To limit environmental spreading and contamination of other materials, we have adapted the bacterial quorum sensing mechanism to trigger a suicide response once a critical density of bacteria is reached [7,8,9].

Using this technology we offer multiple products for different sectors and uses. For industrial use, we offer BioInk that produces materials with a guaranteed lifespan of thirty days, one year or ten years. The thirty day version is used mostly for non-food packaging like inflight headphones, the one year version for short to mid-term storage like cosmetics and the ten year version for long time storage like pencil cases. We also offer our newest product, Plass BioInk home, which is a kit that contains a 3D printer nozzle and software to make your home 3D printer usable with our ink, the ten year version of our ink and a mending kit, to prevent unwanted degradation caused by accidental damage.

[1] European Association of Plastics manufacturers (2015). Study

[2] Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science advances, 3(7), e1700782.

[3] Van Sebille, E., Wilcox, C., Lebreton, L., Maximenko, N., Hardesty, B. D., Van Franeker, J. A., … & Law, K. L. (2015). A global inventory of small floating plastic debris. Environmental Research Letters, 10(12), 124006.

[4] Grand View Research (2015). Plastics Market Analysis By Product (PE, PP, PVC, PET, Polystyrene, Engineering Thermoplastics), By Application (Film & Sheet, Injection Molding, Textiles, Packaging, Transportation, Construction) And Segment Forecasts To 2020

[5] Schaffner, M., Rühs, P. A., Coulter, F., Kilcher, S., & Studart, A. R. (2017). 3D printing of bacteria into functional complex materials. Science Advances, 3(12), eaao6804.

[6] Setlow, P. (2014). Germination of spores of Bacillus species: what we know and do not know. Journal of bacteriology, 196(7), 1297-1305.

[7] Engelberg-Kulka, H., Amitai, S., Kolodkin-Gal, I., & Hazan, R. (2006). Bacterial programmed cell death and multicellular behavior in bacteria. PLoS genetics, 2(10), e135.

[8] Kumar, S., Kolodkin-Gal, I., & Engelberg-Kulka, H. (2013). Novel quorum-sensing peptides mediating interspecies bacterial cell death. MBio, 4(3), e00314-13.

[9] Kumar, S., & Engelberg-Kulka, H. (2014). Quorum sensing peptides mediating interspecies bacterial cell death as a novel class of antimicrobial agents. Current opinion in microbiology, 21, 22-27.

[10] Petersen, E. E., & Pearce, J. (2017). Emergence of home manufacturing in the developed world: Return on investment for open-source 3-D printers. Technologies5(1), 7.