I recently had a fascinating conversation with a student about to graduate with a master's in microbiology. He shared that he’s lined up a job where he'll work on developing "hard structures" from DNA, including concepts like self-healing bridges. This conversation opened up possibilities that seemed almost like science fiction, such as bioships and structures for space environments that can repair themselves.

While I found some preliminary research on using DNA as a building material, information seems sparse, especially regarding large-scale applications or space research. Here are a couple of resources I found that discuss the technology on a smaller scale:

Making Structures with DNA “Building Blocks” https://wyss.harvard.edu/media-post/making-structures-with-dna-building-blocks/

Recent Advances in the Use of DNA as a Building Material

Does anyone know of research that is exploring the use of DNA for constructing large-scale structures, particularly for space applications?

Thank you!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ just fyi we have several questions on the use of wood and bamboo as well, and DNA is indeed a surprisingly robust material: Was 14,000+ year old DNA "laying around in cave dirt" protected from degradation, or is it just naturally this robust? And here's what a glob of wet DNA looks like $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 14 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, DNA strands break down pretty significantly if exposed to ionizing radiation or strong UV. That's a big deal in space. DNA fragments can survive long-term, but that's a function of having already been cut into tiny pieces. Long strands like what you'd need for structures or to control protein production are pretty fragile. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ 14,000+ years is unfathomable. I had no idea that DNA could "survive" for so long. I also agree that ionizing radiation or UV would be an issue for this material. I could almost see an inner wall membrane layer acting almost like a seal that could self-heal. $\endgroup$
    – Twicks
    May 15 at 6:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ May be if you could genetically modify some species of vines, you could harden them for space. Then you could twine them together for added tensile strength. $\endgroup$
    – estinamir
    May 15 at 16:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also this bamboo looks interesting. Scientists chemically remove the lignin from the wood fibers, then treat the remaining material with plexiglass or epoxy. The end result is a material that’s transparent, renewable, and as strong as or stronger than glass, while being lighter and a better thermal insulator. newatlas.com/materials/transparent-bamboo-fireproof-waterproof $\endgroup$
    – estinamir
    May 16 at 14:37


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.