In the category of better living through chemistry, consider the lowly microbe, in particular a sludgy, slimy mat of the stuff floating in a vat of wine. Looks good enough to wear, right? Someone thought so, as Inkling Magazine explains:
"The idea came to [ University of Western Australia ] project director Gary Cass while he was helping a friend at a vineyard in southwest Western Australia. He noticed that one of the vats had become contaminated with the bacteria Acetobacter, which had turned the wine into vinegar and left a mat of cellulose floating on the surface of the vat.
Acetobacter are extremists of the microbe world, invulnerable to pH levels that are very, very acidic. They’re also commonly found on fruits and vegetables. As they convert alcohol into vinegar, they produce a byproduct of cellulose microfibrils woven into a mat that resembles tissue paper on first glance."
By layering the slimy cellulose over an inflatable doll (which must have been an interesting item to invoice the University for), researchers let the bacteria get to work weaving the fibers together. Deflating the doll leaves a fully formed dress, dark red in color because of the acid in the material, but raising the pH apparently produces a shade of blue. There is even a way to make the fabric translucent using wine or beer. Lovely.
“Limitations at the moment [are] that the fabric lacks flexibility which leads to problems in wearability” says Cass. “With further experimentation in culture techniques we are hoping to get the Acetobacter to weave a complete seamless garment that we can pull straight from the vat.”
So perhaps it will not be long until Joan Rivers croons as some starlet steps out on the carpet:
"Oo, what is she wearing? Its a Paul Masson Micro-be, and doesn't that bacteria look gorgeous!"
Read all about it here.