Scientists regularly tap into biological systems to find solutions for human problems. Although they work with plants and viruses in the lab, bacteria have many advantages as a starting point. When programmed in certain ways, bacteria can store data, clean dangerous waste, produce film-like images and even make renewable fuel.
David Benjamin is the founder and design principal of the New York architecture firm The Living and directs the Living Architecture Lab at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. His lab does research on the future of architecture, which includes collaborating with computational biologists. One of his projects explores how bacteria could build new custom construction materials for us.
"It's now more than ever possible to engineer biological systems to perform useful tasks for humans," he said. "I like to quote one of my friends, a biology researcher, who says the cheapest way to make anything is to grow it." Here, Benjamin explores ways that bacteria can be engineered to our benefit.