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printing press spells out bugs\\\' behaviour | new scientist
These inventions are now reflected in the world\'s first bacterial printing machine.
The printing machine will print live bacteria to a solid surface in a precise pattern, and this technique may help explain how bacteria interact in space.
Understanding these relationships will help to find ways to stop their attacks and use them to clean up contaminants.
For example, bacteria sometimes form a biofilm, a unique community of sticky sugary patches that stick to the surface (
New Scientist, November 20, 2004.
In this state, bacteria are better at resisting antibiotics and more effective in dealing with waste.
However, we do not know what conditions are causing the bacteria to form these membranes and why they are more resilient when they form them.
\"One thing we want to look at is the distance dependence on signal transmission between two adjacent bacteria on the surface,\" said Doug Webel, a member of the Harvard University team who built the printing press.
Biologists already have rough techniques for mapping bacteria, including dipping a series of evenly spaced pins into bacterial solutions and dropping water droplets onto new surfaces.
But the liquid will spread, so it is impossible to create a delicate, reproducible pattern.
To create a complex pattern of a variety of different types of bacteria, Wilber borrowed a technology from the computer chip industry called photography.
Typically, this involves coating a silicon wafer with a thin layer of light
Sensitive Polymer, irradiate ultraviolet rays onto it through a template, and then dissolve the affected area to form a pattern.
Wilber used this patterned chip as a mold, and he poured the liquid polymer into it.
This cools, sets and pops up to form a stamp.
It is then applied to it with Joan glue, a nutrient gel that bacteria can grow.
He moved the solution of the bacteria to the Agar that drained the water, leaving a layer of solid bacteria.
In order to print bacteria, this stamp is simply ground in a clean nutrient gel, producing a live replica of the original pattern, which is characterized as small as 1 micron, equivalent to the size of a bacteria.
Since there are some bacteria left on the stamp, it is \"re-
By heating until the bacteria breed, a new carpet is formed on its surface.
Wilber uses his stamps to form patterns of different types of bacteria and the same bacteria on surfaces with different chemical components and to grow biofilm.
He will publish the results in the upcoming release of the Journal.