Bioprinting of Regenerative Photosynthetic Living Materials

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Living materials, which are fabricated by encapsulating living biological cells within a non-living matrix, have gained increasing attention in recent years. Their fabrication in spatially defined patterns that are mechanically robust is essential for their optimal functional performance but is difficult to achieve. Here, a bioprinting technique employing environmentally friendly chemistry to encapsulate microalgae within an alginate hydrogel matrix is reported. The bioprinted photosynthetic structures adopt pre-designed geometries at millimeter-scale resolution. A bacterial cellulose substrate confers exceptional advantages to this living material, including strength, toughness, flexibility, robustness, and retention of physical integrity against extreme physical distortions. The bioprinted materials possess sufficient mechanical strength to be self-standing, and can be detached and reattached onto different surfaces. Bioprinted materials can survive stably for a period of at least 3 days without nutrients, and their life can be further extended by transferring them to a fresh source of nutrients within this timeframe. These bioprints are regenerative, that is, they can be reused and expanded to print additional living materials. The fabrication of the bioprinted living materials can be readily up-scaled (up to ≥70 cm × 20 cm), highlighting their potential product applications including artificial leaves, photosynthetic bio-garments, and adhesive labels.