MIT Researchers Use Light-Illuminated Bacteria to Make 'Living' Pictures

Kirstin Fawcett
iStock / iStock

From conceptual artist Anicka Yi’s smelly art installations to Denver sculptor Nicole Banowetz’s large-scale, inflatable figures of germs, bacteria-based art is having a moment. Now, as Gizmodo reports, scientists at MIT are flexing their own artistic muscles, using illuminated bacteria to make colorful pictures.

As New Scientist explains, researchers have modified the genes of E. coli bacteria so they respond to red, blue, and green light. When scientists use these hues to illuminate the bacteria, the microorganisms produce pigments of the same color, all of which are visible to the human eye.

These specially engineered bacteria were used to create a film that “serves as a kind of living photographic plate,” according to New Scientist. When scientists shine a colorful picture over the film, the single-celled organisms follow suit, changing color to match the image.

MIT scientists have used this technique to make “living” pictures of lizards, Super Mario, and more. View some of their lab-based works below:

[h/t Gizmodo]