Brief: Design an artifact using an algae material.
My group: Amber, Pat, Jason
The second week of the collaborative unit took place in the Green Lab, an open innovation lab and ecosystem. On our first day, they showed us around their facilities and presented their fascinating work with biomaterials. They educated us on the use of bioplastics and presented the closed ecological loop that stands for an ecological system, where any waste should be reused by at least one other species. This was followed by the presentation of algae material and our brief, in which we were asked to design a closed-loop system that was based on the algae material made of agar.
Each group created their own material by mixing different colours and creating various shapes and patterns. Newly created material has to dehydrate and dry for at least one day, so we continued our work on Wednesday. In the meantime, we researched the projects that used biodegradable materials, such as trainers with a bioplastic sole made from corn by Reebok, seaweed furniture by Studio Nienke Hoogvliet and biodegradable algae water bottles by Ari Jónsson. I find those examples very inspiring because they show the variety of uses for biodegradable materials and their durability, about which I was doubtful before. After receiving our dried material, we discovered that not all our material had dried successfully. Some of it shrank and tore as it was being removed from the plate, so we had less of it than we had hoped.
Creating the algae material.
I suggested that we could create a wallet and a closed-loop in the production. Once you buy a customizable wallet, you can send it to the manufacturer after half a year, where it is redesigned according to your wishes and sent back to you. This idea could also be used with phone cases, conference badge holders etc. This project also inspired me to think about the fashion industry and the way people buy new clothes because of the desire to change the design, rather than material. So if we could just send back our pants for redesign instead of buying new ones, that could lead to some major changes in the society driven by consumerism.
After the wallet, we also wanted to create a more conceptual design. Andy’s talk about the ability of algae to absorb heavy metals from the environment inspired me to think about wrapping paper that could leak nutrients into the food. We built on this idea and came up with a green wrap that could substitute aluminium foil and plastic wrap, as well as enrich your food. One could add different vitamins that pair up with different food. Vitamins A, D, E, K, for example, need fat for absorption, so if they were infused into fat-rich food, it would allow them to be absorbed into your body. To follow on the idea of the closed-loop, after ordering and using a customizable wrap, one could simply boil up the wrap, add new nutrients and vitamins and use it again. Although this idea is not yet fully analysed, we do believe, based on what we tested, that something like this could be viable.
This was quite inspirational for me. I learnt a lot about new, sustainable materials that I will certainly use in the future. It was also my first time doing product design, and I found it really enjoyable and interesting. Ideally, I would have liked to have a choice of creating more materials on the first day, and in a larger quantity to ensure that we had enough material to work with, as not all of it dried successfully.