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Living surfaces self-organize

Here’s a new recipe from Jeffrey Brinker of the University of New Mexico (P42 1)

Mix together water, alcohol, detergent, silica and a good dollop of single-cell organisms.

Dip in a substrate of your choice.

Remove and let dry.

While you do the washing up, the silica, detergent and cells will be busy organizing themselves on the substrate surface to create a highly ordered solid film. The amazing thing about this film is that cells survive the assembly process — and they remain alive for up to one month by eating the detergent.

Such films become even more interesting if they are made with organisms that act as biosensors — organisms that react to changes in light or the presence of certain chemicals.

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