Painting and printing living bacteria: Engineering nanoporous biocatalytic coatings to preserve microbial viability and intensify reactivity

Michael C. Flickinger, Janet L. Schottel, Daniel R. Bond, Alptekin Aksan, L. E. Scriven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Latex biocatalytic coatings containing ∼50% by volume of microorganisms stabilize, concentrate and preserve cell viability on surfaces at ambient temperature. Coatings can be formed on a variety of surfaces, delaminated to generate stand-alone membranes or formulated as reactive inks for piezoelectric deposition of viable microbes. As the latex emulsion dries, cell preservation by partial desiccation occurs simultaneously with the formation of pores and adhesion to the substrate. The result is living cells permanently entrapped, surrounded by nanopores generated by partially coalesced polymer particles. Nanoporosity is essential for preserving microbial viability and coating reactivity. Cryo-SEM methods have been developed to visualize hydrated coating microstructure, confocal microscopy and dispersible coating methods have been developed to quantify the activity of the entrapped cells, and FTIK. methods are being developed to determine the structure of vitrified biomolecules within and surrounding the cells in dry coatings. Coating microstructure, stability and reactivity are investigated using small patch or strip coatings where bacteria are concentrated 102- to 103-fold in 5-75 μm thick layers with pores formed by carbohydrate porogens. The carbohydrate porogens also function as osmoprotectants and are postulated to preserve microbial viability by formation of glasses inside the microbes during coat drying; however, the molecular mechanism of cell preservation by latex coatings is not known. Emerging applications include coatings for multistep oxidations, photoreactive coatings, stabilization of hyperthermophiles, environmental biosensors, microbial fuel cells, as reaction zones in microfluidic devices, or as very high intensity (> 100 g·L-1 coating volume·h-1) industrial or environmental biocatalysts. We anticipate expanded use of nanoporous adhesive coatings for prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell preservation at ambient temperature and the design of highly reactive "living" paints and inks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-17
Number of pages16
JournalBiotechnology Progress
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Painting and printing living bacteria: Engineering nanoporous biocatalytic coatings to preserve microbial viability and intensify reactivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this