Category: Lab Project


A Closer Look At Bioplastics – A Solution to Plastic Waste?

(Green Lab, 2019)

Caroline Wood, a PhD student at the University of Sheffield (studying parasitic weeds that infect food crops) attended the Circular Economy Club’s event hosted at our openhouse in May, to learn more about the labs involvement in the current bioplastic debate. Since, Caroline has continued her research and published an interesting article on whether bioplastics are the answer to tackling the growing single use plastic issue.

In her feature Are bioplastics the solution to plastic waste?, Caroline lists the different types of bioplastics available and describes their composition. She provides some transparency on how bioplastics are recycled and composted, an area that is increasingly coming into question – with some bioplastics requiring specialist facilities, separate to the recycling of conventional plastics.  Moreover, she compares the environmental footprint of bioplastics with the impact of conventional plastics, with some bioplastics using raw materials, putting equal pressure on sea and land resources.

For this reason, Caroline advocates that it would be better to use waste materials for bioplastic production instead of creating a new need for resource intensive raw materials. By doing this, most of these waste materials would be available to the public. Caroline explains that “locally-produced, abundantly available waste materials […] [offer] the chance to move plastic production from large corporations to community ventures”. Caroline also met with Green Lab residents Materiom whilst at the event. Materiom are an online open source database that share bioplastic recipes and therefore encourage anybody to create their own bioplastic materials. An important area of there research includes utilising waste materials as a resource, as well as localised manufacture and recipes that can be adapted to suit location.

However, for bioplastics to become mainstream, there are many challenges to overcome. One example Caroline mentions is the possible food allergies linked to some bioplastics’ raw materials, with some ingredients containing gluten for example, having a negative affect on individuals with coeliac disease.

In conclusion, the real issue is our single-use society. The most effective and sustainable way to move forward would be to reduce and reuse certain products and materials, with bioplastics acting as an alternative option only when reusing items is unachievable – ie the medical industry.

Read it here.

Growing bannetons from mycelium & food waste – Research Resident Candyce Dryburgh

Candyce is a design and material researcher who is also a baker and fermenter. She has now her Local Forms project to the Lab. Having done her masters in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, many of her projects are often driven and dictated by materials.

Her current project, Local Forms, rose from the constant daily battle of having to work with bad quality proving baskets. A banneton, also known as a proving basket, is integral to the process of making bread and as a practising baker she is in contact with them on a daily basis. The dough proves in the banneton over night before it’s turned out, dusted off and baked in the oven.

The bannetons currently used in most artisan bakeries are either made from wood pulp or woven from wicker. There is an outcry for objects to be made from more reliable sources and materials. Currently there is a big conversation amongst the baking community around how the quality of the wood pulp banneton has dropped over the years. To kickstart the project Candyce reached out to bakers across the country : both home bakers and bakers on a larger scale. Her mission was to understand the relationship between baker and banneton.

An important fact came up through this research : most, if not all, wood pulp bannetons are made in Germany by a large company, who are not very approachable. They have claimed that nothing has changed about their banneton production, but bakers who use and rely on them on a daily basis argue otherwise. This gave Candyce the motivation to explore and tap into current UK waste streams aiming to bring the banneton back, stronger and more local than the previous years.

While exploring with bio plastics and coffee waste (that was being collected from the cafe which is part of the bakery where she works) she stumbled into the realm of mycelium. Being a home grower of vegetables, she wondered what it would be like to ‘grow’ a banneton.  Mycelium is an amazing organism that finds nutrients from what we deem as waste. Through this new found interest and awe in the mycelium kingdom Candyce’s project became about how we can localise and grow bannetons from the local waste.

The ‘Myco-farm’ started off in a very domestic setting : a room in the house and wasn’t too successful during the winter months due to lack of temperature control and contamination. It was put on hold for a bit while she took part in the BioHack Academy at the WAAG in Amsterdam. While doing the 10 week course, amongst loads of other tings, she learnt basic lab etiquette and but also had the time to teach herself about cultivating mycelium on a very small and sterile scale.

On returning back to London her current challenge is to get the mycelium growing strong enough to not have to be in a completely sterile environment and is now also experimenting with different shapes and materials that the mycelium will grown in.

One major factor of this project is the cost. From the get go it was essential that the project cost a minimal as possible, from the mycelium starters to the substrate that the mycelium is grown on. So far everything is collected locally, coffee and flour waste from the bakery that Candyce works at, saw dust and wood chip from a local carpenters.

As with everything that is grown, it’s impossible to tell if its successful right away. LocalForms has become a game of patience and waiting, a bit like baking.

 

Research Residency Wrap-Up: Sneha Solanki

Sneha Solanki is an alumnus of our research residency programme. She is from the A to Z Unit, a “culinary research facility with a mission to map, investigate and interact with food systems and ecologies.” During her time at Green Lab, Sneha worked on her MICRO_FOOD project through which she is building a library of micro-organisms. Sneha believes that micro-organisms need to be acknowledged for their hard work which often goes uncredited in our food systems. Sneha developed extensive diagrams and maps of the library, focussing around the themes of Infrastructure, Interchange and Exchange. In her preliminary research, Sneha adopted a multi-disciplinary approach and spoke to experts in each one of her 3 grand themes.

  • Exchange – Sneha collaborated with Kate Rich from Feral Trade (an art project/grocery business experiment). “Kate offered thoughts on workable and sustainable economic methods and models whilst also discussing scale. A project of this nature doesn’t offer the usual economic ethos of ‘scale’ or ‘scaling-up’ but does offer one where scale moves in a horizontal or a ‘network’ format.”
  • Interchange – Sneha spoke with participatory artist and consultant Alexia Mellor about the design of the library. Conversations included working towards a travelling library which could reach the “commons”, a DIWO approach (‘do it with others’) and how library might translate into a workshop setting.
  • Infrastructure – Sneha worked with Dr. Sarah Jayne Boulton, a Biomedical Sciences Researcher from the University of Newcastle with an interest in stress pathways and energy generation in cells. Together, they discusses food safety procedures – especially in terms of fermentation which “can be seen as a process of ‘spoiloing’ and stressed the accountability of maintaining, storing and distributing micro-organisms and microbial food/beverage items.”

Over the course of her residency, Sneha also visited BrewLab and learned how to sequence microbial DNA to generate precise for the library knowledge about which micro-organisms are present in samples.

In the meantime, Sneha spent a lot of her time at the Lab fermenting Egyptian Kombucha using hibiscus tea and experimenting with long term storage of yogurt cultures.

Sneha also benefitted from conversations with fellow Green Lab residents Pilar Bolumburu and Zoë Powell from Materiom. Sneha writes, “We had a ‘library’ to ‘library’ conversation including looking at the concept of a library, interfacing elements digitally, tool hacking to make infrastructure more accessible and less wasteful, and we also spoke about future ‘library’ to ‘library’ collaborations.”

We look forward to more updates from Sneha as her MICRO_FOOD library continues to expand! You can find out more about her work here.

Sneha plans on returning to Green Lab in Autumn 2019 to lead a workshop. Please drop us a line at grow@greenlab.org to register your interest.

 

 

Open source robot arm to extrude organics – Research resident Andreea Bunica

Open source robot arm to extrude organics
 
Andreea began her research residency here at the Lab in March and is using the opportunity to research across the disciplines of biology, robotics and responsive growing in relation to her background in architecture. Her broader area of focus is how to successfully print growing bio matter in gel mediums – and to achieve this she has begun to prototype a hobby robot arm that can be optimised to extrude organics.

Prototyping a modified robot arm

Andreea is working towards creating her own fully open-source, affordable tool kit for a robot arm that extrudes organics, with the hope that it will be more affordable and accessible than current options. This will allow a wider and more diverse audience to engage with robotic fabrication.

To achieve this she is currently using the Fab Lab at Green Lab to study existing robotic systems, design and protoype 3D printing files and laser cut files. By studying the existing Dobot desk arm that we have at the lab she is redesigning the robot frame and firmware code to do the following:

  • Incorporate a syringe organics extruder
  • Provide stability and accuracy through low cost fabricated PLA parts and lasercut pieces
  • Incorporate an Android app-controlled robot functionality

We have documented the process of Andreea’s first iteration of her prototype robot hobby arm to extrude organics on our wiki – where you can follow a step by step guide of the project to date.

You can also follow her progress throughout the residency on her website

Green Lab Wiki

Kombucha Leather – Research Resident Riina Oun

Kombucha leather

Riina is a designer and maker of hand-crafted leather gloves and a material researcher currently pursuing her Masters of Arts in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins UAL. During her research residency at Green Lab Riina is searching for a biological leather substitute suitable to use for making gloves. She is currently researching kombucha SCOBY (the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), grown on the surface of the beverage, with the goal of developing it into the ultimate vegan leather substitute material.

Coming from a design background with a focus on leather accessories, Riina is looking for new alternative material options that retain the positive qualities leather offers. Kombucha leather is relevant as a potential alternative to animal leather, whilst avoiding man-made oil-based fake “vegan” leather. Riina would like to contribute into developing a leather replacement material that is sustainable with minimal impact to the environment and that can be easily reproduced without creating non-biological waste.

kombucha leather samples

During her residency, Riina´s research includes fermenting and growing the kombucha SCOBY in large sizes over several weeks, testing various finishes of processing the SCOBY into a visually appealing, soft and durable material and prototyping “leather” fashion accessories to test their wearability.

www.riinao.com

Algae Cutlery – Research Resident Midushi Kochhar

Agar samples

Midushi is a product designer and material researcher who is pursuing her master’s degree in Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins UAL. For her 12 week research residency here at the lab she is using her material driven approach to concoct sustainably derived materials from the sea and wasteful everyday resources and translate them into commercial products.

For her initial research she has been using Agar- Agar which is derived from red algae. Agar has been used in the medical industry for a number of years due to its nutrient content but more recently designers are starting to explore it’s potential as a bioplastic. With the growing concern over single use plastic, Midushi aims to tackle this issue, focusing in on single-use cutlery she is exploring how to make biodegradable tableware to help eradicate this pollution phenomena.

She is currently exploring various recipes and composite options to make the most durable material – mixing agar- agar with various available food waste such as egg shell powder, pea pods and beetroot peels. She has also added ingredients including red chili powder, turmeric, charcoal and gram flour to understand the various properties these substances can provide.

By developing mundane but functional objects such as disposable cutlery, Midushi hopes to bring about acceptance and popularity towards a new aesthetic thus opening up the possibilities of producing more biodegradable short life products that won’t last forever and pollute our natural world.

FIND OUT MORE

MYCHROME PROJECT – research resident Valentina Dipietro

mycelium samples

Valentina Dipietro is a material designer and researcher about to complete her MA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. She is currently undertaking a 12 week research residency here at the lab, utilising our developing material lab to experiment with mycelium materials with an outcome to make them viable for products and interiors.

Her project, Mychrome (from mycelium and khrôma –atos, “colour” in ancient greek), is based on material circularity and usage of waste to supply a need for a radically sustainable range of materials for design which are compostable, but at the same time, desirable.

mycelium textures

Mycelium is the vegetative part of the mushroom and it can grow on different varieties of agricultural waste. The material fully colonises the waste in the span of two weeks from inoculation while in the right environmental conditions and it presents advantageous physical properties, as it is fire resistant as well as temperature and sound insulating. At the end of its life span it can be re-introduced in the environment as an agricultural fertilizer.

During her residency she will experiment on how to incorporate colour and waste at incubation level, experimenting with different varieties of fungi (Pleurotus Ostreatus, Ganoderma Lucidum or Fomes Fomentarius), as well as multiple waste substrates like straw, wood chips, sawdust and hemp. Combining them with natural pigments obtained from wine waste, she aims to create textural materials and, at the same time, experiment with a range of natural finishes in the realms of natural resins, agar and wax.

Find out more

OD&M Future Algae presentations

CSM MAID students

On Wednesday 28th November we saw the MA Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins, working on the OD&M Future Algae brief, present there projects exploring the immense potential algae holds.

For the the final crit all the students from across the course came together to present the projects they’d spent the last 6 weeks developing – with 3 briefs (future algae being one of them) we saw varied starting points all focusing on open design and manufacturing, circular economies and systems design.

For the algae brief the students all started at the same point – exploring the future potential of algae (both macro & micro) but all groups research took them down different paths, focusing on different narratives to explore this material through.

Group 1.

RHODON - luxury toiletries

With growing frustration of throw away, single use plastics Group 1. decided to focus on this sector. With the hope that consumer change will continue to grow and we will see less demand for single use products the group identified a few industries where they thought the convenience single use offers will continue to be necessary. Focusing on the service sector and hotels in particular they created a narrative to celebrate algae’s ability to replace plastic as a bio plastic alternative, allowing single use products to not have a lasting negative impact on the environment.

consumer system

Creating a company that operates directly in the hotel supply chain they created a closed loop system of creating luxurious algae toiletries for hotel rooms – There kit RHODON houses single use products for those traveling light.

Identifying independent hotel chains on the south coast they sought to develop a system from – raw material – to product – to end of life care. By choosing a controlled environment such as hotels they can remain in control of there products right through to disposing of them.

The system

System diagram

The group understood the need to still create luxury products and try to separate the idea of a sustainable alternative offering a lower aesthetic – they need to continue there material work to create prototypes as desirable as there rendered samples but the project holds potential and there ability to identify a niche narrative and environment to work within allowed them to focus there project.

Group 2.

alje website

With fast fashion an ever growing problem and the enjoyment we gain from consuming not decreasing Group 2. chose to focus on the single use properties of algae, celebrating it’s ability to biodegrade and return to the environment. They created a project that played with consumers enjoyment of buying – creating short term swimwear brand ALJE.

Swimwear is typically made from plastic based fibers, to ensure product durability whilst in the water and being exposed to the sun – however with trends changing as fast as the seasons they found that many holiday goers like to purchase new beach attire for each holiday.

alje website

Rather than building a product to last for as long as possible, ALJE has a purposefully short shelf life – allowing  consumers to  update there swimwear regularly, guilt free.

THE SYSTEM

Using the website you can pick your item, enter your size and choose your finish. This is then sent to a local 3D Knitting machine placed at a makerspace. You can then collect your order in person or have it sent to you.

Once ALJE has reached it’s end of life span it can be returned to the company to be recycled or there website will help you to locate a suitable composting location near to you.

The ALJE System

Whilst this project remains at the speculative stage and the group need significant development of algae based samples and to conduct exploration with manufacturing and distribution techniques – they managed to identify the possibilities that open design platforms could offer the fashion industry whilst tapping into the idea of fab cities and a more connected maker movement.

Group 3.

Tote bag instructions

Through the future algae brief Group 3. became very aware of how little they had known about algae previously and were shocked to learn the potential it holds for a more sustainable future. Identifying the fact that the public probably knew as little as them they set about to create a communication project that would educate and inspire others to take part in the algae conversation.

Creating an exploration kit to communicate and engage the public the group visualised this material becoming a DIY phenomenon, creating an accessible kit that contained at home experiments and learning with algae. As well as the kit, the group mocked up a website and pop up shop where the public could actively engage with the material. Creating an open source platform the idea would be that the curious could share there experiments, create further work, encourage others to explore and ultimately create a large scale constantly updating recipe book.

Online recipes

With algae found around the world the online platform also allows those further afield to explore recipes without needing to purchase the kit.

This is algae exploration kit

The group successfully identified the need for alternative sustainable options to become part of the conversation – as the more we know about alternatives the more likely we are to demand them. By creating a kit that is lo-fi and accessible it allows for maximum engagement. The success of this project would be visible by physically putting it to the test and engaging the public.

All projects had a certain level of speculation in order create future narratives, although all are not to far from possibility – with algae exploration advancing constantly and more people working within this sector we are hoping to see the students take these projects further and potentially develop them into a reality.

This project took place over 6 weeks, the students responded to a brief that challenged them to work with alternative ‘new’ materials and to understand the areas of industry that algae can infiltrate – the Green Lab team can offer similar projects & tailored briefs – if you are interested in a brief lead by the team for your organisation, school, college or university please get in contact at:

grow@greenlab.org

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE OD&M PROJECT

The MICRO_FOOD Library by research resident Sneha Solanki

Sneha Solanki of the A to Z Unit joined our research residency programme in October and is spending 3 months at the lab working on her project the MICRO_FOOD Library.

‘The MICRO_FOOD Library aims to bring the microbial transformers from our food systems to the forefront as a library of micro-organisms. Missing and un-credited bacteria, yeasts & fungus often perform to provide complex flavour profiles, nutrition & of course intoxication – Although their hard-work is enjoyed by many they often go unnoticed.

During the research residency, the project aims to bridge or counter some of this oversight through developing a repository of knowledge and micro-organisms that aspires to engender a ‘D.I.Y’ (Do It Yourself), D.I.T.O (Do It Together) or ‘D.I.W.O’s (Do It With Others) approach to culturing, consuming and engaging with this integral element from our food landscape. The A to Z Unit is an autonomous and evolving culinary research facility with a mission to map, investigate and interact with food systems and ecologies.’

During the first month of the residency Sneha has conducted a large amount of research, planning and mapping for the library – building it into a coherent and ‘possible’ framework.

MICRO_FOOD Library framework

The first micro organisms introduced into the library are:

Acetobacter aceti, Acetobacter Ketogenum, Acetobacter pasteurianus, Acetobacter xylinum, Acetobacter xylinoides, Bacterium gluconicum, Bacterium xylinum, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Brettanomyces lambicus, Brettanomyces custersii, Gluconacetobacter kombuchae, Kloeckera apiculata / Hanseniaspora uvarum, Pichia pastoris, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyces bailii, Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis, Lactococcus lactis var. longi, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (Lactobacillus bulgaricus) Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus (Streptococcus thermophilus)common name: Egyptian Kombucha and Långfil & Bulgarian yoghurts, all chosen for their reversioning or continuous legacy.

Egyptian Kombucha & Bulgarian Yoghurts

These organisms, and others that will be added will be classified under an ‘X-Number‘ system- to credit their hard-work which often goes uncredited from our food systems.

Micro-organisms Engineered through genetic systems or synthetic biology will be organised as the ‘E-Number‘ system within the ‘MICRO _FOOD library’. Taking over the ‘European’ ‘E-Number’ system post-brexit.

Follow her research and the project to find out more

Future Algae – exploring the Margate coastline, Haeckels and seaweed

Yesterday the Green Lab team took a group of students from MA Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins to Margate for a day of exploring the potential of seaweed for the OD&M (open design & manufacturing) project. With a focus on the future potential algae holds we have challenged students to work with this material and explore speculative futures where algae will play a big role.

Margate seaweed

With Margate and the Thanet coast being home to an abundance of seaweed, as well as company Haeckels that are showcasing this amazing material and its beneficial properties, we took the students for a day of exploring the plethora of algae available.

Haeckels shop

Visitng Haeckels making space we met founder Dom to hear more about the products he makes from the seaweed harvested from the shoreline. Having discovered an abundant material that know one was utilsing Dom started to create cosmetics that showcased the benefits of seaweed.

Dom & the students

As well as making with materials from Margate and in Margate he also has a passion for sustainable systems within his business – now focusing on packaging and distribution to ensure a low impact product. As a coastal warden Dom and his company are actively caretaking for both there home and surroundings whilst raising awareness of the power of nature and answers it can hold.

find out more