A collaboration among experts at the Molecular Foundry, the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), and the Advanced Light Source has shown that the starting ingredients in an infinitely recyclable plastic known as poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, can be successfully made by microbes. The new approach shows that renewable, recyclable plastics are not only possible, but also outperform those from petrochemicals.
Taking their cue from Nature, Berkeley Lab researchers have engineered living cells to act as a starting point, or “scaffold,” for the self-assembly of composite materials. The resulting engineered living materials (ELMs) represent a new class of material that may open the door to advanced applications in bioelectronics, biosensing, and smart materials.
Leading the effort was Caroline Ajo-Franklin, whose lab is part of the Molecular Foundry, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and who holds a secondary appointment in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division. A study describing the work was recently published in ACS Synthetic Biology.
Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) faculty scientist Markita Landry has developed a simplified technique for genetically engineering any type of plant that could speed the introduction of new and beneficial genes. While trying to label plant cells with nanotube sensors, Landry, an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s chemical and biomolecular engineering department, discovered that nanotubes easily slip though plant cell walls, which are known for their tough layers. She immediately saw how to flip this around to deliver genes into plants; she and her colleagues describe the technique in Nature Nanotechnology.
On July 16-17, 2018, Berkeley Lab hosted a workshop on opportunities to develop new materials made by biology that focused on inorganic and organic/inorganic composites. This event brought together researchers from across the lab to identify areas for collaborative research that bridge biology, chemistry, materials science, and computing. The workshop was held in anticipation of two recent workshops, one each hosted by the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, to develop a Berkeley Lab perspective for these types of materials. Caroline Ajo-Franklin, Peter Fischer, and Jay Keasling hosted the two-day meeting. The workshop report, which was compiled based on participant discussions and was reviewed by the participants, is now available for download.
UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that a common diarrhea-causing bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, produces electricity using an entirely different technique from known electrogenic bacteria—and that hundreds of other bacterial species use this same process. The scientists worked Caroline Ajo-Franklin, a staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry who has a secondary appointment in Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging, on this research. Read more from the UC Berkeley News Center.