Inspired by beans!

New BioLogic Film Responds to Humidity


MIT’s Tangible Media Group wants to make the world’s materials “bio.” Now, they’ve created bioLogic: a film that can respond to humidity.

Second Skin – that’s the name of one of the latest projects to come out of MIT’s Tangible Media Group. Don’t worry, it’s not what it sounds like. The skin is actually a garment that responds to humidity—whether it’s in the atmosphere or sweat from the body.

The inspiration comes from an unlikely place: food. The Bacillus Subtilis is used in Japan to help ferment the soybean dish, nattō. The microorganism is capable of incredible movements; it expands and shrinks in response to moisture. The team became interested in the bacteria because of its mechanical properties. With the dream of creating something that can be grown, something distinctly “bio,” the tiny Bacillus Subtilis was the missing piece of the puzzle.

Is it humid out? (Image: Tangible Media Group)
Is it humid out? (Image: Tangible Media Group)

The microorganism is printed on a film that makes it easy to move or attach to other objects. By micro-printing on film, the team can align the bacteria in highly specific patterns that can cause a variety of behaviours. It all comes down to the design. Once the team dreams something up, they must find the perfect orientations and angles in order to create the desired effect. By testing these creative designs digitally, they can also save time and avoid waste.

Once printed, the Second Skin can be attached to ordinary fabric for easier manipulating and manufacturing. The bacteria also grows at a rapid pace, making it easy to manufacture in-house. Even industrial manufacturing the bio-film could be made possible.

Second Skin is not the Tangible Media Group’s only project, either. Their general use and printing of natto is “bioLogic.” The bio-hybrid film has a host of applications outside of fashion. Different patterns and materials can completely change the way the film functions. Embedding heat circuits even allows it to be controlled with electronic signals. The mechanism can also be used to change colors.

If you want to hear all the incredible details about the project, the creators of bioLogic made a very informative video. Check it out below. You can also read more here.