Future Algae project
For our involvement in the European funded OD&M project (Open Design & Manufacturing) the lab developed a 6 week brief to be run for 12 students from MA Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins.
ALGAE – A MATERIAL FOR HEALTHIER URBAN ENVIRONMENTS
The open design for sustainable future living project will explore how an open design-led process can be used to a develop future products, materials, new processes or services that use algae as the core material; whether at an industrial level such as a future biofuel, at a much more personal level for cosmetics, food source, a new material, decorative perspectives or as a bioremediation (cleaning our air and landmass).
The natural resources of our planet are being used at a greater rate than they can be naturally replenished and the shift towards a more sustainable and ecological way of using resources has become a global imperative.
Exploring how we use naturally occurring biological and organic materials that do not have a detrimental effect on our natural habits, human life or broader ecological survival is now being explored by organisations across the corporate footprint of every major country.
This project seeks to provide an insight into naturally occurring macro and micro algae that grow in freshwater and saline environments; from the tiny microscopic algae that create the green waters in local ponds to the vast kelp forests that fill our oceans. Algae occurs naturally in our oceans in the form of seaweed and also in freshwater in temperate and tropical environments.
Algae are simple life forms with simple biological needs (light, Co2, simple nutrients) and have been farmed and used to create new materials, fuel sources, highly nutritious food sources, cosmetics, light sources and decorative materials.
Algae has numerous benefits that make it an ideal choice for creating a variety of sustainable products.
THE MATERIAL LAB:
To aid the students with there material research and experimentation we set up a material lab for them to utilise. Having conducted hands on messy research ourselves we knew how valuable it was to have the space to do this.
Our Material Lab is kitted out with stainless steel workbenches, tiled walls, industrial sinks, basic heating and processing equipment and drying racks.
With the Thanet coast having a large natural deposit of seaweed washed onto its beaches we decided to take the students on a field trip to Margate. This trip allowed them to experience the unique atmosphere of British seaside towns whilst also responsibly foraging there own seaweed to work with.
We also visited Margate based Haeckels – a skincare brand whose star ingredient is sustainably harvested seaweed from the Margate coast. The brand not only demonstrated to students the potential of the otherwise overlooked ingredient but they also have a sustainable and responsible ethos built into there brand, considering everything from ingredients through to packaging and distribution.
The 12 students split into 3 different groups all responding to the brief in a different way to develop there experimental projects.
Group 1 developed a project in response to the growing single use plastics epidemic. Focusing on industries such as travel where single use items may still be beneficial the group developed a project focusing on Algae’s potential as a bio plastic. Building a system of circular economy into the product they developed a range of single use toiletries that would utilise algae, building a circular system that considered sourcing the original ingredient, a method of distribution and what the products end of life could be.
Group 2 worked with notions of fab cities and distributed manufacturing. Focusing on the biodegradable properties of algae based materials and the appeal that fast fashion maintains within many of us they developed a short lifespan swimwear concept. They created a system that allowed you to order your chosen swimwear item from an online global database before choosing to have it manufactured at your local fab lab facility.
Group 3 took a different approach to the project, focusing on creating a campaign that would increase the public’s awareness of the potential of algae as a sustainable material. Being shocked by there own limited knowledge of this sector before the project began they took it upon themselves to create both a communication focused campaign as well as interactive do-it-yourself kit for people to engage with algae and conduct initial experiments at home.
In the development of the future algae brief the lab conducted some initial material research to kickstart the students curiosities into material experimentation.
We developed some lo-fi open source recipes and outcomes to present to the students & for others to replicate and improve.