NASA Sponsors Research into 3D-Printed Biomaterials

Biomaterials could be a reality sooner than expected thanks to NASA sponsored research.

NASA, biomaterial, printer, 3d printing, spaceIn a recent announcement, NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program pledged $100,000 towards the study of 3D-printed biomaterials.

Biomaterials are pretty ubiquitous, easy to find anywhere in the world. Rubber, wood, silk, and other biologically-derived materials are so common that the idea of having to go without them seems almost absurd. Unfortunately, off-world, those materials are relatively scarce, and zero-G vacuum tree farms aren’t really an option. In order to create a more abundant source of space-borne biomaterials, NASA is look to merge inorganic and organic materials to create biomaterial composites capable of a performing a number of tasks.

While there are few concrete details as to how the project will work, the NIAC’s website tantalizes us with this project description: “Imagine being able to print anything from tools and composite building materials to food and human tissues. Imagine being on Mars with the ability to replace any broken part, whether it’s a part of your spacesuit, your habitat, or your own body.

“We propose a technique that would allow just that. By printing 3D arrays of cells engineered to secrete the necessary materials, the abundant in situ resources of atmosphere and regolith become organic, inorganic, or organic-inorganic composite materials. Such materials include novel, biologically derived materials not previously possible to fabricate.”

NASA’s initial $100,000 will fund a 9 month analysis of the 3D printed biomaterial concept. If successful, NASA could release an additional $500,000 to support further research, possibly turning science fiction into science fact.

Image Courtesy of NASA