- bacteria produce minerals -
The first microbes project is focused on biomineralisation, meaning organisms that are able to create minerals. The main difference and also advantage of biomineralisation, in comparison to the geological and technical way of producing minerals, is that neither high temperature nor pressure are necessary. Also, biominerals grow into well-defined structures and composites with extreme properties. On the other hand, completely new challenges arise from working with living organisms and the concept of growth. We conducted explorative experiments with the bacterium Bacillus pasteurii, which produces calcium carbonate, to answer questions such as: How can we make use of their adaptability, resilience, and their fast reproduction? Which processes and products can be realized at the present time? What consequences will microbial production have on consumer-interaction in the future?
New methods were developed, new applications created.
SUBLIMINALS - nutrient supply & health care by bacteria -
We eat genetically modified food containing less nutrients than the original forms. On the other hand, we enjoy drinks enriched with minerals and vitamins. When we suffer from deficiency symptoms we take pills to adjust our vitamin and nutrient balance. Are there better ways of nutrient supply and health care?
The object family Subliminals shows a prospective alternative to the common nutrient supply by pills or other medicines in a future of nutrient-poor food. The objects satisfy your daily requirement of minerals - produced by bacteria. Nutrients can now be ingested in a new incidental way constantly while still being controllable and visible. The dosing of different minerals is controlled by the objects themselves through the size of their coated surfaces.
CO[W]WORK - a collaboration of biological systems -
The aim of the co[w]work project is the production of bio-composites from waste materials from the dairy cow industry through the use of energy self-sufficient processes with the help of bacteria, enzymes and other biological substances. It shows two different material chains completely derived from this industry’s waste:
The first concept harvests the bioplastic PLA (polylactic acid) as well as nutrients for calcium carbonate producing bacteria from whey, a by-product of the cheese industry. The final biomineralised PLA composite offers surprising mechanical properties.
The second concept makes use of lignin derived from manure. It is constructed by computer-controlled wasps into very complex shapes. Also, here the final biomineralisation coating by bacteria allows sturdy and waterproof structures.
COMPACT CHAFF - worldwide biomineralisation using leftover material and bacteria -
Chaff is a common leftover all over the world – from rice, corn, millet and other crops. Their often high content of silicon dioxide offers the possibility to turn them into fibre reinforced cement by using bacteria that are able to produce biominerals – in this case bio cement, gluing the husks together using the silica from the husks. The resulting material alters depending on the site-specific kind of chaff, but the process is the same. We developed a simple and mobile tool that makes the process available to almost everybody.
LIME MYCELIUM - symbiotically growing material -
My concept suggests that fungal mycelium and bacterial calcium carbonate create a composite material that can grow in random forms in industrial standards. It is lightweight, stable and one hundred percent biodegradable.
I propose that mycelium, which is a fibrous chitin structure usually growing in soil, could grow in air, if sufficient nutrients were supplied as a kind of fog and if it was being calcified while growing by the bacteria Bacillus pasteurii that live in symbiosis with the mycelium in order to give it stability. The growth itself could then be parametrically controlled by the direction and intensity of the nutrient fog.
First indications of symbiotically grown calcified mycelium show where this kind of technology could lead to: to a kind of computer-controlled growth of natural materials, without the need of tooling, leading to a production that is extremely versatile and to products that are not just biodegradable but highly adaptive.
PORIFERA MOLLUSCA - bacterial nacre -
Porifera mollusca combines the most significant characteristics of shellfish and sponges and creates synthetic nacre - a biomineral, consisting of about 95 percent calcium carbonate that is known to be 3000 x stronger than its inorganic components due to its composite structure involving about 5 percent of organic material. However, natural nacre grows into shell shapes that are not very useful to us.
Porifera mollusca is an effort to create a process in which structurally and aesthetically valuable nacre is produced by bacteria, in any desired volume or shape. During the process, pre-shaped fibre and porous sponge structures are covered with bacterial nacre resulting in lightweight, strong and graceful composite materials, that are compostable but still resistant to natural influences.
- a day made of algae -
Algae are known as an unpleasant occurrence inside aquariums, as an annoying algae bloom at popular coastal resorts, maybe also as an integral part of nutrition in some cultures, but still they are an almost unused resource - despite their incredible variety and their ability to grow much faster than land plants without competing with other foodstuff. Some algae even bind heavy metals, others can provide important minerals or biofuels, or even produce tailor-made plastics from carbon dioxide in the air with solar energy.
The second microbes project dealt with the question: how can we make use of this valuable raw material and not only substitute materials and products with algae but create new applications, qualities, characteristics and usage scenarios? In order to explore this question and provide innovative answers, exploratory experiments were performed alongside intensive discussions with various experts.
DYNAMIC AGAR - smart shape changing systems -
Dynamic Agar presents the experimental research of the smart and dynamic properties of agar-based bioplastic. Agar is a substance extracted from the renewable raw material red algae. When made into bioplastic the material reacts according to its hydrophilic characteristics.
The properties of shrinking, expanding and their reversibility are demonstrated through different smart shape changing systems.
3D-printing is well suited for processing the gel like structures to guarantee consistent quality.
ALGYCEL - tool-free manufacturing -
Algycel offers a tool-free manufacturing process with short production cycles in order to produce components with customised geometries. The resulting Algycel material is very lightweight, water-, mould, and fire-resistant. It is a non-toxic alternative to some synthetic materials. After use, it can be composted and used as fertiliser in food production.
The production process works as follows:
First the desired geometry is projected onto specific microalgae that organise themselves towards light in a liquid medium. Thereby every piece can be shaped individually with different light projections - without any tooling necessary or waste being produced. Then a fungus is added which eats the algae and develops exclusively in the previously defined algae structure. Its growth is stopped by heat when the shape determined by the algae has been fully covered by the fungus. The desired shapes can be produced in any regional bio-factory.
MARINE COTTON - factories for water-based technologies
Algae grow up to 40 times faster than rooted plants. All they need is light, water and nutrients. Due to the rapid propagation, they are often seen as a plague. Starting from these properties this study deals specifically with the growth and utilisation of fibrous algae to be used in textile contexts. They are processed by means of newly interpreted technologies into either semi-manufactured products or up to a finished grown product. Marine Cotton represents an alternative to current resources and technologies of the textile industry.
Vortex is a concept that spins fibrous algae into yarn. As long as algae stay in water it is easy to separate or treat them. Lifting them outside, they glue together immediately.
Keep the vortex slightly above the longest part of the yarn
Add more algae so that the fibres connect with each other and lengthen the yarn
Speed up the vortex and spin the yarn
Turn the crank
Start again and redo steps 1-4
Habitat: freshwater, occurs in spring in calm waters
Appearance: free-floating, filament, light green
Length: several meters
II. Deep Draw
When algae are exposed to intense sunlight they produce large amounts of oxygen. The oxygen is caught under the dense algae mesh, so that the algae float on the water surface. This effect can be used for a shaping process that is similar to the regular plastic deep drawing process.
Submerse the tool with the perforated mould into the water and place it underneath the mesh of densely grown algae
By lifting the tool, the algae take the shape of the mould
Let it dry
Habitat: freshwater, occurs in spring in calm waters
Appearance: free-floating, filament, light green
Length: several meters
III. 3D Growth
Due to the fact that Cladophora adhere to surfaces it is possible to grow predefined shapes or coat surfaces.
Cover the gauze with spores of algae
Place the covered mould into the nutrition tank
Let them grow
The algae adhere to the gauze and coat it during growth
Use a water jet to link the fibres with each other for a fleece
Let them dry
Species: about 10 different types
Habitat: freshwater and seawater, settle on surfaces such as stones, roots, filters etc.
Appearance: green fibrous algae, characteristic strongly branched strands
Length: grow up to 10-25 cm per month
NUTRIENT SOLUTION - growing algae with spit and breath -
„Stocks of various microalgae are available in your pantry - differing in species, metabolic by-products, growth rate, and appearance. Choose the right algae culture for your personal requirements. Three different plates provide three different growing conditions that result in three different dishes. Take the appropriate plate and inject your algae culture. Put the cultivation chamber on top to create the ideal growth environment. Spit and breathe - feed your culture with a daily dose of bodily nutrient and air supply. Over a span of ten to fourteen days of your care the seedlings grow in to a lush population. Take off the chamber and consume your dish.“
By-products of the human body are often connotated negatively but yet contain a range of usable substances. Simple organisms, like green microalgae are able to use them. In combination with light, spit and breath all conditions for microbial growth are available. A kind of symbiotic relationship emerges.
REEPWERK - cherishing eelgrass -
Each year, more than 27.000 tonnes of eelgrass are washed up on the German coast of the Baltic sea. Reepwerk demonstrates how to turn this material into ropes.
So far, eelgrass has mostly been a nuisance for tourists at the beach, while its disposal causes financial issues for coastal communities. The project shows how eelgrass can regain its value as a regional resource. Therefore, the machine Reepwerk invites both residents and visitors to discover and handle this usually disregarded material. Our project is supposed to provide incentive for further exchange about possible applications for eelgrass.
GROW - air algae living on textiles -
Algae don´t only live in water. The aerophytes, known as air algae, live on the surfaces of trees, rocks and buildings. Aerophytes gain their nutrients and water from the air. They are perfectly adapted to temporary drought. In combination with indirect sunlight they photosynthesize like ocean algae - but air algae are not only green. If they are cultivated in high concentration in water many more colours show up. These are perfect conditions for designing colourful textiles. The living pigments on curtains indicate the quality of the air in a room by changing their colour intensity depending on the humidity of the air. Additionally, the aerophytes convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
2030 - an algae symbiosis -
Symbiosis (from Greek „living together“) describes any type of close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms. Microalgae can be found inside different organisms where they are an important part of their host. Often the host offers its “partner-algae” a safe habitat and gets remunerated by nutrients and other products of the algae`s photosynthesis. In this project, I developed three futuristic concepts of how our future with algae symbiosis could look, how it would affect our everyday life and which abilities we could gain. My starting point was research into already existing symbioses between different animals and microalgae, which I transferred to human life. The results are not only new practical abilities, but also the question of how we define a “healthy” habitat for ourselves and our farm animals.
I. ENERGY INK
The starting point for this futuristic concept was the ability of sea snails to eat microalgae in the first part of their life. They store the chloroplasts of the algae under their skin to produce energy for themselves. After having stored enough chloroplasts under their skin they do not need to eat the algae any more. Scientists used this method and injected cyanobacteria into the embryos of zebra fish. The bacteria started to multiply in the cells of the fish and produced oxygen and glucose for their host. These scientific findings are the foundation of this concept in which we tattoo cyanobacteria into our skin cells. The goal is not to become independent from conventional food sources, however, the cyanobacteria are able to produce a lot of substances we need only in small concentrations like vitamin B12 or small quantities of glucose, which is interesting for medical applications. Vegans can use the tattoo to get their own source of vitamin B12 which we can otherwise only get from animal components. With the help of gene alteration, the cyanobacteria would be able to produce medical products like licopene or interferons. Users would be more independent from the pharmaceutical industry and would not need a pharmacy nearby. A conventional tattoo machine is not suitable to make this kind of tattoo. The cyanobacteria solution has to get injected directly into a skin cell. Therefore, I developed a DIY skin cell hacking tattoo machine.
The three-finger-sloth cultivates microalgae on its fur and harvests them as an additional food source. If we could transfer this ability to chickens from livestock farming they could produce their own food. How would this affect the chickens? How would this change their lives? Chickens that live in modern intensive mass animal farms are stressed by their lack of space. One result is aggressive behaviour and cannibalism. There would be two significant developments: the self-sufficient chickens would prefer a narrow living space because they would feed each other with the algae in their plumage. A high sense of togetherness and solidarity would evolve and the chickens would also change physically. To harvest the algae from the feathers a beak is not the optimal tool. It would regress and they would form a rough tongue as their new optimal eating tool. We could create a chicken, which is customised for the conditions of factory farming. The question we have to ask: is it acceptable to customise the chickens for intensive factory farming instead of customising the farming method to accommodate the chickens’ preferred living conditions?
To visualise this, I decided to create a series of spray cans, which we would use to spray the new born chicken to cultivate algae on them.
III. THE ALGAE MAN
The symbiosis between the spotted salamander and microalgae was the starting point for this concept. The eggs of this animal get infiltrated by microalgae which produce oxygen for the salamander embryos and consume their waste products. What would happen, if we would infect human embryos with microalgae? How would this symbiosis affect their future life? This human being would offer the algae a safe habitat and it could use products of the algae photosynthesis for their metabolic processes. The algae also have the ability to utilise waste products like CO2 - so both would profit from this artificially created symbiosis. The result would be that this human being would have new demands regarding their environment. They would have to provide the algae with enough CO2, phosphate and nitrate. To visualise these new living conditions, I created a small series of everyday objects which got twisted in their purpose and customised for the algae man’s life. If we look at polluted industrial areas in China we can find an environment which would be an optimum habitat for the algae man. Lots of left-overs from fertiliser in the water cycle and a high amount of CO2 in the air are typically found in these areas. So, the resulting critical question is: how do we define a healthy and intact living space? Is it only connected to the requirements for a healthy (human) life or is it about high biodiversity and high substance flow?