Dirt-Eating Carpet

We don’t need machines to build the automated home of the future, we can grow them right out of nature.

Someday, you might buy a kitchen countertop deliberately filled with bacteria, especially if these bacteria could do the cleaning for you.

Hacked bacteria, one of the fields of research coming out of the growing field of synthetic biology, could eventually do everything from changing color in the presence of peanuts to alert allergy-sufferers to finding and eating dirt so you don’t have to get out a sponge.

Designer Tashia Tucker is thinking about how the new world of bacteria-impregnated products and architecture might work. In an exhibit up at Drexel University as part of the Design Futures Lab, a year-long exploration of crazy-but-feasible ideas, she’s put together a few prototypes. These don’t actually work—the science isn’t quite there yet—but Tucker wants to show what’s coming.

Using a Nintendo gaming mat hooked up to an Arduino microprocessor and a projector, she simulated how a dirt-eating carpet could work. “The microbial floor project came about with the idea of being able to detect toxins in our environment, whether it’s pet dander or dust or dirt,” she explains. “It could find whatever type of toxin it’s programmed for and eat away at it off the surface. I show it as a flooring speculation, but it could be used for various types of surfaces in our environment.”

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