Bionic materials
Conventional approaches to create biomaterials rely on reverse engineering of biological structures, on biomimicking, and on bioinspiration. Plant nanobionics is a recent approach to engineer new materials combining plant organelles with synthetic nanoparticles to enhance, for example, photosynthesis. Biological structures often outperform man-made materials. For example, higher plants sense temperature changes with high responsivity. However, these properties do not persist after cell death. In this study we permanently stabilize the temperature response of isolated plant cells adding carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Interconnecting cells, we create materials with an effective temperature coefficient of electrical resistance (TCR) ∼2 orders of magnitude higher than the best available sensors. 
Cyberwood, Plant Nanobionic Material
Artificial skins

Artificial membranes that are sensitive to temperature are needed in robotics to augment interactions with humans and the environment and in bioengineering to improve prosthetic limbs. Existing flexible sensors achieved sensitivities of <100 mK and large responsivity albeit within narrow (<5 K) temperature ranges. Other flexible devices, working in wider temperature ranges, exhibit orders of magnitude poorer responses. However, much more versatile and temperature sensitive membranes are present in animals such as pit vipers, whose pit membranes have the highest sensitivity and responsivity in nature and are used to locate warm-blooded preys at distance. We show that pectin films mimic the sensing mechanism of pit membranes and parallel their record performances. These films map temperature on surfaces with a sensitivity of at least 10 mK in a wide temperature range (45 K), have very high responsivity, and detect warm bodies at distance. The produced material can be integrated as a layer in artificial skins platforms and boost their temperature sensitivity to reach the best biological performance. 


Pectin Skin, Robot Skin, West World
Hand Thermal Image
3D printed mechanical antibacterials
Bacteria Trap

   
Recently the first colistin resistant strain of E. coli in a patient in the United States has been reported. This finding is particularly alarming because it shows a path for the emergence and dissemination of pan-drug resistant bacterial strands. This could lead to the end of the road for antibiotics. For this reason, limiting the use of antibiotics is mandatory as well as limiting the spread of species carrying the resistance genes in the environment. Alternative solutions not relying on drugs and chemicals to reduce the load of unwanted bacteria are therefore badly needed.​ We show a new drug-free technology to reduce the load of E. coli in liquids. This method operates with no antibiotics, chemicals or pharmaceutical substances, works at room temperature and exploits motility of bacteria. We projected deployable 3D printed micro-traps that confine E. coli in their volume by only exploiting bacteria’s own mobility. The micro-traps operate through engineered apertures that rectify bacterial swimming and direct the cells into the sequestering micro-cavities. The method opens the road to a new “pharmacology” based on 3D micro-technology and the possibility to interfere mechanically with the dynamic properties of pathogens.
    

Bionic ventricular
volume sensor​
Pig Heart, Animal Experiments
   
In patients with chronic left heart failure, the left ventricular volume will increase. Left heart failure leads to pulmonary congestion which results in clinical symptom of dyspnea. The extent of left ventricular dilatation is related to the severity of left heart failure. To monitor the progress of the disease an implantable ventricular volume sensor is highly desirable. If the ventricle is severely compromised, implantation of a left ventricular assist device (L-VAD) is necessary. In currently available L-VADs, equipped with a continuous flow pumps, no feedback is present to automatically adjust the flow level. In case the speed of the pump is low with respect to the actual need of the patient, the ventricle is not depleted properly and the ventricular volume increases. In the opposite case, the depletion is too severe and the two walls of the ventricle may collapse. Different volume sensors are described in the scientific literature, but there is a substantial lack of implantable sensors.The scope of our research is to test a new principle for implantable bionic ventricular volume sensors. The new sensors are minimally invasive and can exploit existing medical procedures and devices, could be used to monitor patients with chronic heart failure, or to inform the controller of an L-VAD. With proper volume measurements, the L-VAD controller could adjust the speed of the pump to fit the patient’s needs and optimize the ventricular volume.