Designers like Studio SWINE and Hella Jongerius have inspired my ambition as a designer – to be a holistic designer, ones have to return to the basis of material. Searching for an alternative sustainable resource, algae have gotten me intrigued to explore the creation of a contextual material and its characteristic in a closed-loop system.
Before anything exists on Earth, algae are the first. They are the reason why Earth has oxygen. These photosynthetic organisms are diverse and range from solitary cells to complex multicellular forms 200 feet in length or more. Algae are abundant resources that interestingly adapt to the environment. Nitrogen and phosphorus (human waste) are the nutrients for blooming. They also produce chains of carbon molecule with photosynthetic (carbon dioxide and sunlight). The advantages and potential of algae are the prime reason why I am interested in it. Many researchers are looking at algae and microalgae in producing biofuel, cosmetic, bioplastics and health supplements.
The difference between Microalgae and Macro Algae: –
I was initially interested in Microalgae. However, the timeframe of the project unfortunately only allows me to explore algae. It has been estimated that between 200,000 and 800,000 species of microalgae exist. While microalgae can only be seen under the microscope, macroalgae are large aquatic photosynthetic plants that can be seen without the aid of a microscope.
Bioplastics are driving the evolution of plastics. Major advantages of bioplastics are saving fossil resources by using biomass, which constantly regenerates, and providing the unique potential of carbon neutrality. Furthermore, biodegradability is an add-on property of certain types of bioplastics. It offers additional means of recovery at the end of a product’s life.
With a production of 280 million tonnes, plastics are a necessity in today’s economy. Normally they are produced from crude oil products. Many of the materials utilized to date can, however, also be made from renewable resources. A number of biobased plastic materials have been developed and today represent a proven alternative to their conventional counterparts. Roughly 85 percent of plastics could technically be substituted with biobased plastics.
Algae serve as an excellent feedstock for plastic production owing to its many advantages such as high yield and the ability to grow in a range of environments. Algae bioplastics mainly evolved as a byproduct of algae biofuel production, where companies were exploring alternative sources of revenues along with those from biofuels. In addition, the use of algae opens up the possibility of utilizing carbon, neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions from factories or power plants.
The plastics market is worth more than $400 billion and has grown at an average of 3.5% per year over the last two decades. Many companies especially in Europe make significant R&D investments into bioplastics, and these efforts are likely to result in significant cost reductions to make algae-based bioplastic more viable.
Assimilating these two subjects – algae and bioplastic, it prevalently builds a perfect closed-loop ecosystem. From growing to cleaning our polluted waters, then harvest to make bioplastic products, to users and later disintegrate back to nature. As for my project, it builds around the narrative of canal boat dwellers and canals as the loction where algae are largely found at. Products for boat living will then be produced by algae bioplastic.