Researchers from the Penn State University have come up with an extraordinary new material suitable for 3D printing, that derives from squid DNA.
“Most of the companies looking into this type of material have focused on synthetic plastics,” said Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics. “Synthetic plastics are not rapidly deployable for field applications, and more importantly, they are not eco-friendly.”
Professor Demirel and his team examined a protein complex found in the squid ring teeth (SRT) and were able to synthesise a variety of proteins from it. Some of them appeared to be thermoplastics and showed stable thermal response. In order to synthetically manufacture the natural material, the SRT protein gens were inserted into E. coli bacteria, which then started to produce plastic molecules.
The material can be heated, molded, extruded or dissolved in certain kind of acids, which makes it an ideal material for 3D printing. The thermoplastic can be rigid or soft, features a very high tensile strength and is a wet adhesive. Due to its tuneable properties it can be adjusted to individual requirements of manufacturing. The protein thermoplastic is suitable for medical or cosmetic applications.
“Direct extraction or recombinant expression of protein based thermoplastics opens up new avenues for materials fabrication and synthesis, which will eventually be competitive with the high-end synthetic oil based plastics.”