Self-repairing 3D-printed shoes created from protocells

London designer and material researcher Shamees Aden has come up with a new concept of synthetic-biology running shoes. The shoes are 3D printed from a synthetic biological material that can repair itself overnight.

The running shoe concept uses protocells, which allow them to be 3D-printed to the exact size of a user’s foot and fit like a second skin. “Protocells is a form of synthetic biology that blurs the gap between the non-living and living,” Aden wrote on her website. “Encouraging the emergence of life from lifeless liquid chemicals manufactured artificially in the laboratory could provide us the building blocks to create a new man-made nature.”

Though the basic protocell molecules are not technically alive, they can be combined to create living cells. On mixing different protocells, different properties are created that enable them to be programmed to behave differently depending on heat, light, and pressure.

“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure,” Aden told Dezeen. “As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”

After the run, the shoes would be placed in a vat of liquid. The living liquid protocell works like a recharger, helping the shoes to rejuvenate overnight.

Aden is collaborating with University of Southern Denmark professor Martin Hanczyc (who specialises in protocell technology) on the development of the shoes. She expects these shoes to become a reality by 2050.

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