Maker Faire New York: Using Microbes to Etch PCBs

Science Technology
Maker Faire New York: Using Microbes to Etch PCBs

Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans is a gram-negative bacterium that lives, in the natural world, in iron sulfide (aka “pyrite,” aka “fool’s gold) deposits, where it eats iron and sulfur and excretes sulfuric acid.

Now, a team of graduates, undergraduates, and post-docs at New York’s Columbia and Cooper Union universities is working to develop a genetically-modified strain of A. ferrooxidans that can be used in place of toxic bulk chemical reagents to selectively etch copper to make printed circuit boards:

By genetically altering the bacteria, we intend to install a light sensitive mechanism which will enable us to etch copper in a desired pattern, leaving a finished circuit board. Once a blank printed circuit board is placed in a thin layer of solid media, the bacteria will be applied onto the surface of the media and light will be focused on it in a desired pattern. The light sensitive mechanism in ferrooxidans would activate and self-destruct in the pathway of the light. In the end, the circuit board will be “etched” by the bacteria everywhere but the illuminated spots, leaving the desired pattern behind on the circuit board.

The combined Columbia-Cooper Union team are entering this project in the 2012 iGem Synthetic Biology competition. Check out the link, below, for more details, and come see them in person, if you can, at World Maker Faire 2012.

IGEM 2012 Team Information – Columbia-Cooper-NYC

6 thoughts on “Maker Faire New York: Using Microbes to Etch PCBs

  1. Jon Wolfe says:

    This seems like a great way to make self-destructing boards, too.

  2. Coding SNAFU: That’s one way to display an apostrophe | FailDesk says:

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  3. World Maker Faire New York: Town Hall, Call for Makers, and More! | MAKE says:

    […] disco-in-a-box project, propose a talk or performance, pitch your prototype, yarn bomb a rocket, etch PCBs with bacteria, exhibit a trompe l’oeil monster, display your letterpress art, or show off your homemade […]

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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