Start-up of the Day: Vienna Textile Lab dyes fabrics with bacteria

Bakterien, Textilfarben, Vienna Textile Lab

“Bacteria are the most intelligent, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient way to produce textile dyes,” says Karin Fleck, founder of Vienna Textile Lab. “Bacteria occur in nature, can be stored as a strain in laboratories and propagated at any time. They synthesize colors in a natural way”.

Karin studied technical chemistry at TU Wien in Austria. For many years she had various managerial positions at several energy companies such as Vattenfall Energy Trading in The Netherlands and in Germany. When she met Cecilia Raspanti (who had founded the company Textile Lab Amsterdam), she became inspired to use bacteria to make textile dyes. Cecilia had already tried this herself, but without much success. “It is not so much about the challenge of using bacteria as a raw material. More than anything, you actually need a lot of know-how and understanding of scientific methods. You then also have to go about it very carefully. There could potentially be germs among them,” Karin explains.

She had already been working with dyes when she was graduating. But the whole sector was new to her in principle. That’s why she sought support via:

  • Fritsch, a textile dye company in Vienna, which specializes in environmentally friendly dyes;
  • Erich Schopf, a bacteriographer from Vienna, who makes paintings using bacteria;
  • the Institute of Applied Synthesis Chemistry at TU Wien.

Microorganisms tend to produce microbial dyes in response to altered growth conditions. They protect cells from external influences such as salt or temperature stress, light or intense competition. These substances often also have an anti-bacterial effect. Bacteria-based textile dyes have the same properties as conventional synthetic dyes when used on a daily basis.

Karin Fleck elaborates further:

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

What solution does this bacterial-based textile dye offer and why is that important?

It is an alternative to synthetic dyes, which to a large degree have a detrimental effect on health and the environment. But also particularly for people in the textile industry who are constantly in contact with these dyes. Furthermore, everyone wears clothes and is therefore exposed to the chemicals that they contain. These dyes are currently under critical examination throughout the world. The EU has guidelines on synthetic dyes too. Dyes are banned on a regular basis or their use is restricted. This creates more room for new, innovative dyes. But especially for new production systems which do not rely on crude oil.

What has been the biggest obstacle that had to be overcome?

Our limited ability to hire people. The Austrian labor market is geared towards permanent jobs and employee security. Yet the world of start-ups is unpredictable. Above all, people are needed on a project basis in order to be able to cope with any peaks. You need to be able to react flexibly to the circumstances when you’re a young company who has growth spurts.

What has been a high point so far? What are you particularly proud of?

There have been many wonderful moments. Such as winning prizes. When we first started out, we already won 3rd place at the Climate Launchpad. This year we won the BOKU Start-up Prize from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. All the invitations we’ve received have also been very encouraging. For example, for the TEDxCanggu in Bali or for a pitch at CLIX , part of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

It’s also great to see how people, customers and organizations from all over the world know how to find us. We talk to people from the US, Indonesia, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany and so on. For instance, I came in contact with Material Connexion in New York. This is a collection of some of the most diverse, innovative materials for industry, local tradespeople, artists and designers. Samples from Vienna Textile Lab have now also been included in their collection.

We derive the most pleasure from everyone who supports us. People who let us know that they appreciate how good our bacteria-based textile dyes are. The experts who really help us out when we can’t figure something out right at that moment. But also local organizations that believe in our success. These include the Vienna Impact Hub or the TCBL, Textile clothing and business labs.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab,
Bacteria are applied directly onto the fabric, where they multiply and develop a pattern. Karin Fleck, Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

How is everything going at the Vienna branch?

Fine. We can have confidence in the structures and systems. We have had many rewarding and supportive experiences involving funding agencies and universities. There are people here who are promoting us, even when they don’t know us personally. I can’t judge whether things are any better anywhere else. But I know that there is more money available for the biotech sector in Germany and the US.

Where will the start-up be in five years’ time?

By then we will have elevated our manufacturing method to an industrial level. We will have a customer base that will facilitate further growth, and perhaps we’ll be expanding on a global scale.

What distinguishes Vienna Textile Lab from similar companies?

We have opted for solid partners. This in turn makes us stronger and more competent. Aside from that, we want to remain transparent and have discussions with all potential customers or partners. Not only with large corporations, but also with niche companies, artists and designers. That may well make it more complicated, but that makes it all the better as well. We learn a lot through this kind of interaction and are therefore able to position and develop our products much more effectively. Last but not least, we have an extremely wide variety of our most important employees: bacteria.

Bakterien, Textilfarbe, Vienna Textile Lab
Bacteria are capable of producing a large proportion of the colors in the color palette. Nevertheless, some colors are problematic and need to be mixed. Vienna Textile Lab (c) Michael Fraller

Read more articles about start-ups here.

 

 

New bio-ink for 3D bioprinting advances cell research

Bioprinting, Bio-Tinte, Zellforschung, 3D-Druck

Bio-printing has brought new perspectives to cell research. So far, however, other 3D printing methods have fallen short of expectations. A special bio-ink has now been developed at TU Wien (Vienna) that solves the current problems.

The new bio-ink enables:

  • extremely fast and high-resolution 3D printing;
  • integration of living cells directly into microstructures during the printing process.

Bio-printing of microstructures provides cell research with models whereby it can be observed how diseases spread via cells and how their behaviour can be controlled. Nevertheless, the challenges for 3D printing are considerable. Not only do the structures have to be tiny, they also need to reflect the natural environments of cells. As it is the mechanical and chemical properties as well as the geometries of the cell environments that influence cell proliferation.

In concrete terms, this means that cell environments must be permeable for nutrients so that the cells can survive and multiply. It is also important whether the structures are rigid or flexible.  And whether they are stable or if they degrade over time.

Problems related to bio-printing

Manufacture of microscopic 3D objects is nowadays relatively straightforward. Living cells are embedded in the structure as part of the 3D procedure using bioprinting technology – a special additive 3D printing process. The drawbacks of this technique have on occasion been a lack of precision. As well as a time frame that is very brief for processing living cells. The cells are damaged if the time frame is exceeded.

Precision vs. speed

The biggest technical challenge in bioprinting was at times the low resolution that conventional technologies offered. Lithography-based approaches such as two-photon polymerization (2PP) are able to overcome this limitation.

Researchers at the TU Vienna have many years of practical experience in the application of this method. This is based on a chemical reaction that only becomes active when a molecule of the material simultaneously absorbs two of the laser beam’s photons. This is the case if the laser beam has a particularly high intensity and causes a selective and very specific hardening of the substance. These properties are conducive to high precision manufacture of the finest of structures.

The disadvantages of the two-photon polymerization is the slow printing speed. This ranges at times from micrometers to a few millimeters per second.

Cell-friendly bio-ink

According to Professor Aleksandr Ovsianikov, head of the 3D Printing and Biofabrication research group at the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at TU Wien, the slower print speed in bioprinting is the result of certain chemical substances. His team achieved a speed of one meter per second with cell-friendly materials. The process must be completed in a few hours in order for the cells to survive and continue to develop.

This represents a major breakthrough when it comes to embedding living cells for two-photon polymerization, Ovsianikov explains.

“The high level of speed achievable in laser scanning makes it possible to quickly generate structures for statistical analysis during cell culture experiments as well as for large-scale production”. Aleksandr Ovsianikov

Another advantage of this method is that the cell environments can be individually adapted. Depending on the structure, they can be made more rigid or softer. Even delicate, continuous transitions are possible. The laser intensity can also be used to adjust the degradation of the structure relative to time.

The bio-ink is based on a a gelatin norbornene hydrogel, whereby dithiothreitol was used as a thiol cross-linking agent together with a special biocompatible photoinitiator based on diazosulfonate (doi: 10.1039/C8PY00278A).

Compatible with stem cells

The discovery of the cell-friendly bio-ink is not only a technical breakthrough, but also a major contribution to cell research. The microstructures that result from this process provide unprecedented accuracy. New insights can be gained into the spread of diseases throughout the body.

“Furthermore, the material is also compatible with stem cells and has already been tested with obese human stem cells in a laboratory. As with the L929 cells used in the publication*, these cells can be embedded directly into the 3D matrix and printed in accordance with a suitable architecture. This leads to excellent cell viability.” Aleksandr Ovsianikov

Interdisciplinary Team

The research project constitutes a transnational and interdisciplinary collaboration. Besides the TU Wien, several Belgian research institutes were also involved: the Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials Group in Gent, the Brussels Photonics Campus, the Department of Applied Physics and Photonics at the University of Brussels, Flanders Make in Lommel and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Three institutes were involved at the TU Vienna: The Institute of Materials Science and Technology, the Institute of Applied Synthetic Chemistry and the Institute of Lightweight Structures and Structural Biomechanics.

The high-resolution 3D printing technology and the requisite materials will be provided by UPNano, a young and successful spin-off from TU Vienna.

*Publication: A. Dobos et al. (2019):  Thiol–Gelatin–Norbornene Bioink for Laser‐Based High‐Definition Bioprinting, Advanced Healtcare Materials.

 

Also interesting:

3D printing technology for natural regeneration of damaged bone

Magnetic new improved technology for heart pumps

Herzkatheterpumpe (c) TU Wien

A new technical solution has been found for the intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) at the Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien). This enables a higher capacity in a smaller format. The technology might also be interesting for other medical applications.

Heart failure is a weakness of the heart muscle whereby the heart is no longer able to supply the body with sufficient blood and oxygen. The causes are manifold and the disease is one of the most frequent causes of death in Germany. A possible therapy is the insertion of a A new technical solution has been found for the intra-aortic balloon pump. This device draws the blood directly from the ventricle of the heart and pumps it through.

Major technical requirements

The technical requirements for intra-aortic balloon pump are at odds with each other:

  • one side of the pump must come into direct contact with the blood;
  • but the blood may not get into the motor;

A common solution to this problem, for instance, is a permanent release of a sugar solution in order to prevent the blood from flowing into the motor, explains Christoph Janeczek from the Institute of Engineering Sciences and Product Development at TU Wien. He was involved in the development of this innovation.

According to Janeczek, a more elegant solution would be to divide the pump into two completely separate sections. The rotary motion of the motor must be magnetically transferred through the partition wall to the other part of the pump using a magnetic field. Standard solutions are placed either axially or radially.

Vulnerabilities of conventional solutions

The axial placement can be imagined as like two axially cut halves of a rod. Several magnetic poles are placed in the correct positions on the interface. When the pump is activated, the rotation of one part causes the rotation of the other part without any contact. The disadvantage of the axial position is that there is a magnetic attraction of the two parts around the axis. This adds to the load on the IABP motor. Another problem is that there is only a relatively low torque transmission then.

In a radial positioning of the magnetic poles, one part of the coupling engages the other from the outside. This results in a considerable need for more space. However, the torque transmission is greater.

Miniaturization using simple geometry

The research team at TU Wien was able to combine the advantages of these two pump variants – as well as achieve an increase in both performance and a reduction in size. The magnetic effect is achieved using a very effective bimetallic sheath. This incorporates two permanent magnets. The advantage is that their magnetic field is constant. In comparison, electromagnets require an additional electrical supply.

The geometrical design ensures that the coupling has both axial and radial components. This approach enables the miniaturization of the IABP. It is a mere five to six millimeters in diameter. At the same time, torque transmission could be boosted by thirty percent compared to conventional pumps of the same size.

As Janeczek notes, the new technology could also be used to reduce the size of existing IABPs. Furthermore, the company is currently exploring whether the pump could also be used in other medical areas, such as lung support.

The miniaturized magnetic coupling has already been patented. The company is now looking for industrial partners in order to bring these into clinical practice.

Intra-aortic balloon pump (c) TU Wien

More details about the miniaturized magnetic coupling can be found here.

Also interesting:

Substance from Edelweiss flower saves heart attack patients

Researchers discover new gene mutation that causes heart muscle disease

Heart Plaster to Improve Contraction after Heart Attack

Von Supraleitung würde auch Hyperloop profitieren

Supraleitende Materialien würden unseren Alltag vollkommen verändern. Anwendungen wie elektronische Geräte, die kaum noch elektrische Energie verbrauchen, wären möglich – und schwebende Hochgeschwindigkeitszüge. Auch Elon Musks Hyperloop würde davon profitieren.

Schwebende Züge könnten mit extrem starken supraleitenden Magneten zum billigen und ultraschnellen Transportmittel werden, erklärt Professor Neven Barišić vom Institut für Festkörperphysik an der TU Wien. Zitat: „Supraleiter sind perfekte Diamagnete und wären die beste Technologie, um einen Zug zum Schweben zu bringen. Aber wir kämpfen immer noch damit, Materialien zu finden, die einfach und billig an die technischen Anforderungen angepasst werden könnten. Hochtemperatur Supraleiter zu verstehen, ist sicher ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung und das Hyperloop-Projekt würde sehr davon profitieren.“

Neven Barišić forscht an Supraleitern. Jetzt veröffentlichte er Ergebnisse, die die Erzeugung von supraleitenden Materials näher rücken lassen.

Supraleiter

Konventionelle elektronische Systeme basieren auf Bauteilen wie Kabel und Drähte und diese haben einen gewissen elektrischen Widerstand. Es gibt allerdings auch Materialien, bei denen dies nicht der Fall ist – zumindest bei sehr niedrigen Temperaturen. Es handelt sich dabei um sogenannte Supraleiter. Das sind Materialien, deren elektrischer Widerstand beim Unterschreiten einer kritischen Temperatur abrupt auf Null fällt. Unter anderem sind es Metalle, welche über diese Eigenschaft verfügen.

Materialien herzustellen, die auch bei Raumtemperatur noch leitfähig bleiben, wäre ein wissenschaftlicher Durchbruch. Die Forschung im Bereich der sogenannten Hochtemperatur-Supraleiter gestaltet sich allerdings schwierig, weil viele mit der Supraleitung verbundene Quanteneffekte noch nicht ausreichend verstanden werden.

Barišić: „Es gibt durchaus einige Materialien, die supraleitendes Verhalten bei Temperaturen in der Nähe des absoluten Nullpunktes zeigen, und bei manchen verstehen wir sogar, warum das so ist.“ Die wirkliche Herausforderung sieht er allerdings darin, Supraleitung in Cupraten zu verstehen, wo diese bei viel höheren Temperaturen bestehen bleiben.

Vielversprechende Cuprate

Die Entdeckung der Hochtemperatur-Supraleitung in Cupraten zählt zu den wichtigsten wissenschaftlichen Meilensteinen der letzten fünfzig Jahre. Cuprate sind chemische Verbindungen, die ein kupferhaltiges Anion enthalten und bei Normaldruck bis zu einer Temperatur von 140 Kelvin (minus 133 Grad Celsius) supraleitend bleiben. Aber zentrale Fragen zum komplexen Phasendiagramm dieser Materialien blieben bisher offen.

Barišić sieht in einem Material, das bei Raumtemperatur supraleitend bleibt, den heiligen Gral der Festkörperphysik. Jetzt kam er diesem näher. Er entdeckte zwei fundamental unterschiedliche elektrische Ladungsträger in Cupraten, die in einem subtilen Wechselspiel stehen – und dieses Wechselspiel ist entscheidend für die Supraleitung.

Ein Teil der elektrischen Ladungsträger ist immobil, der andere Teil hingegen mobil.

  • Die immobilen elektrischen Ladungsträger sitzen jeweils auf einem Atom und können sich nur wegbewegen, wenn das Material aufgeheizt wird.
  • Die mobilen elektrischen Ladungsträger können von einem Atom zum anderen springen.

 

Supraleitung durch Paarung

Die Supraleitung wird von den beweglichen elektrischen Ladungsträgern ausgelöst. „Es gibt eine Wechselwirkung zwischen den beweglichen und den unbeweglichen elektrischen Ladungsträgern, durch die sich die Energie des Systems verändert“, sagt Barišić. Die Unbeweglichen haben klebstoff-ähnliche Funktion und binden Paare von Beweglichen aneinander. So entstehen die sogenannten Cooper-Paare. Erst nach dieser Paarung können die elektrischen Ladungsträger supraleitend werden und dem Material die Fähigkeit zum Transport ohne Streuung und Widerstand verleihen.

Barišić und sein Forschungsteam schließen daraus, dass die Zahl von mobilen und immobilen Ladungsträgern sorgfältig ausbalanciert werden muss, um Supraleitung zu erhalten. Die Relation von ‚Klebstoff’ und zu paarenden elektrischen Ladungsträgern muss ausgewogen sein. Ein Missverhältnis führt unweigerlich zur Schwächung oder zum Zusammenbruch der Supraleitung. Zentrales Forschungsproblem war es herauszufinden, wie sich der Einfluss von Temperatur oder die Dotierung des Materials mit anderen Atomen auf die Balance zwischen beweglichen und unbeweglichen Ladungsträgern auswirkt.

Neven und sein Team führten viele verschiedene Experimente mit Cupraten durch. Aus den großen Datenmengen ließ sich eine umfassende Phänomenologie der Supraleitung in Cupraten darstellen. Unter anderem konnte nachgewiesen werden, dass Supraleitung graduell entstehen kann. Die Erkenntnisse, die der Forscher mit seinem Team gewann, helfen die Cuprate besser zu verstehen und noch bessere Supraleiter zu entwickeln. Barišić sieht sich noch nicht am Ziel, denkt aber, dass die Forschungsergebnisse gleich mehrere Schritte zu einem besseren Verständnis von Supraleitern genommen haben.

 

Weitere Informationen zu Supraleitern als Diamagnete finden Sie in der Informationsliteratur zum Meißner-Effekt.

Hier finden Sie den Link zur Originalpublikation von Neven Barišić:

Orignalpublikation: Pelc et al., Science Advances 25, Vol. 5, no. 1 (2019)

Weitere kürzlich dazu erschienene Publikationen von Neven Barišić:
Nature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 4327 (2018)

npj Quantum Materialsvolume 3, Article number: 42 (2018)

 

Foto oben: Shanghai Transrapid (c) Yosemite Commonswiki

Mould as the basis for green medicine

TU Wien

VIENNA, 17 November 2018 – In the summer semester of 2019, the new PhD program Bioactive will start at the Vienna University of Technology. In an interdisciplinary research project, the aim is to discover valuable, medically relevant substances in moulds – or fungi – and to produce them in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.

The WHO classifies antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to global health. The discovery of new bioactive substances with pharmaceutical applications is one of the greatest challenges of our time. At the Vienna University of Technology, fungi and plants are considered to be an untapped source of bioactive substances. The new doctoral college TU Vienna bioactive is intended to make mould medically relevant.

Moulds and plants as a source of bioactive substances

Derntl Christian_biolabor_TU Wien (c) TU Wien
Derntl Christian Biolabor_TU Wien (c) TU Wien

“We already know from previous projects that nature has many previously untapped possibilities in this area. The question is not whether we will find new interesting products, but which ones and how many,” explains Dr. Christian Derntl from the team of supervisors at the doctoral college. The focus is on novel antibiotics, but the discovery of a new food colour is also relevant.

The TU Vienna has been researching moulds for decades and has an entire library of different fungal strains. In the new doctoral college, their DNA will be examined for useful genes. The starting point is the production code of interesting substances that can be read from the fungal DNA. With this code, the substances can be transferred to other fungi that are easier to handle and to bacteria – or further modified.

This results in a research model that combines knowledge from different fields: from bioinformatics to bioprocess technology and microscopy. This networking requires intensive cooperation between students and supervisors.

Sustainable Production

In the environmentally friendly production process, cost-effective vegetable raw materials such as straw or wood waste are to be used and fully recycled. The plant material serves as a livelihood for fungi and bacteria and even contains interesting substances that can still be discovered for medicine.

Derntl says that the pharmaceutical research area has not yet been sustainably researched. For the first time, the doctoral college is trying to discover and produce new bioactive substances and to think in terms of closed substance cycles. In addition to the use of renewable plant biomass and maximum resource utilisation, life cycle assessments, material cycles, waste management and carbon dioxide utilisation are used to minimise the ecological footprint of the process.

A long tradition of research

The TU Vienna has a lot of experience in the research of moulds. In addition to research projects, the institute also works on directly commissioned industrial projects. In this context, Derntl refers to the renowned collection of industrial organisms (TUCIM) and successful cooperations in the field of process and organism optimization.