MIT researchers invent clothes that breathe with the help of biological cells

MIT researchers have invented a new type of workout material that can breathe using biological cells. The project, called bioLogic, is essentially a “breathable workout suit” covered in small flaps. The flaps are “lined with live microbial cells that shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity” allowing the entire outfit to act as a reactive sensor to let athletes cool off as needed.

The group released their findings in a new paper.

“These cells are so strong that they can induce bending of the substrate they are coated on,” said lead author and Wen Wang.

Opening and closing flaps isn’t the only thing this system can do.

“We use fluorescence as an example, and this can let people know you are running in the dark. In the future we can combine odor-releasing functionalities through genetic engineering. So maybe after going to the gym, the shirt can release a nice-smelling odor,” said Wang.

The material uses a nonpathogenic strain of E. coli that could swell and shrink in humidity and even fluoresce when you sweat, glowing green as you exert yourself. From the release:

The team printed parallel lines of E. coli cells onto sheets of latex, creating two-layer structures, and exposed the fabric to changing moisture conditions. When the fabric was placed on a hot plate to dry, the cells began to shrink, causing the overlying latex layer to curl up. When the fabric was then exposed to steam, the cells began to glow and expand, causing the latex flatten out. After undergoing 100 such dry/wet cycles, Wang says the fabric experienced “no dramatic degradation” in either its cell layer or its overall performance.

This suggests you will soon have bioluminescent and bioreactive clothing that can be washed, dried, and worn again. The suit works far better than traditional workout wear and the researchers found that “effectively removed sweat from the body and lowered skin temperature” when working out. They’ve added the technology to the running shoe which, obviously, will soon allow E. coli to keep your tootsies nice and cool.







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