These incredibly detailed plastic cubes that are printed out are replicas of soil structure – a network of pores sort of like the holes in an Emmental cheese. The material used to create the cubes is called Nylon 12. And now the team is setting out to discover how these holes determine the ways in which the fungi and bacteria living within them interact.
By inserting microorganisms (such as fungi and bacteria) into the pore spaces within the plastic soil, the scientists can now observe exactly what is going on in the soil underground, how these microorganisms move through it, survive and interact.
This is the first time that 3D printing has been used to print something so intricate and detailed as soil before