Mar 6, 2019 | By Thomas

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have successfully 3D printed live cells that convert glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide gas (CO2), a substance that resembles beer.

An LLNL team 3D printed live yeast cells on lattices. Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Microbes are often used to convert carbon sources into valuable end-product chemicals that have applications in the food industry, biofuel production, waste treatment and bioremediation. According to researchers, using live microbes instead of inorganic catalysts has advantages of mild reaction conditions, self-regeneration, low cost and catalytic specificity.

3D printing of live whole-cells can assist in research in microbial behaviors, communication, interaction with the microenvironment and for new bioreactors with high volumetric productivity. The LLNL team 3D printed freeze-dried live biocatalytic yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) into porous 3D structures. The unique engineered geometries allowed the cells to convert glucose to ethanol and CO2 very efficiently and similar to how yeast on its own can be used to make beer. Enabled by this new bio-ink material, the 3D printed structures are self-supporting, with high resolution, tunable cell densities, large scale, high catalytic activity and long-term viability.

Their research is published as an ACS Editors' Choice article in the journal Nano Letters.

"Compared to bulk film counterparts, printed lattices with thin filament and macro-pores allowed us to achieve rapid mass-transfer leading to several-fold increase in ethanol production," said LLNL materials scientist Fang Qian. "Our ink system can be applied to a variety of other catalytic microbes to address broad application needs. The bioprinted 3-D geometries developed in this work could serve as a versatile platform for process intensification of an array of bioconversion processes using diverse microbial biocatalysts for production of high-value products or bioremediation applications."

"There are several benefits to immobilizing biocatalysts, including allowing continuous conversion processes and simplifying product purification," said chemist Baker, the other corresponding author on the paper. "This technology gives control over cell density, placement and structure in a living material. The ability to tune these properties can be used to improve production rates and yields. Furthermore, materials containing such high cell densities may take on new, unexplored beneficial properties because the cells comprise a large fraction of the materials."

"This is the first demonstration for 3-D printing immobilized live cells to create chemical reactors," said engineer Duoss, a co-author on the paper. "This approach promises to make ethanol production faster, cheaper, cleaner and more efficient. Now we are extending the concept by exploring other reactions, including combining printed microbes with more traditional chemical reactors to create 'hybrid' or 'tandem' systems that unlock new possibilities."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Checker wrote at 3/7/2019 2:08:30 PM:

"This is the first demonstration for 3-D printing immobilized live cells to create chemical reactors," No, it's not. This was done over a year ago utilizing beer yeast in a hydrogel, 3d printed into a grid. I remember seeing the article on this very site.

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