AlgaeAboard : Material Experimentation

(AlgaeAboard is my final major project for MA Product Design at Manchester School of Art. It sets in the context of canal boat dwelling. At the beginning of the chain, algae act as the organisms that clean the canal. They are then harvested to process into algae bioplastic and make into products used on the boat. The products return back to the nature at the end of its life by virtue of the material’s biodegradability.)

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Using the algae I have collected from Regent’s Canal and based on the book ‘Green Plastic’, I prepared the ingredients required:- tapioca starch, glycerol, gelatin and vinegar.

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Test 1

2 tbs Starch : 1 tbs Algae : 2 tps Glycerol : 2 tps Vinegar : 8 tbs Water

Result: Flabby

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Test 2

2 tbs Starch : 1.5 tbs Algae : 3 tps Glycerol : 2 tps Vinegar : 14 tbs Water

Result: Soft but flexible.

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Test 3

2 tbs Starch : 1.5 tbs Algae : 2 tps Glycerol : 2 tps Vinegar : 14 tbs Water

Result: Strong but flexible. Can resist from tearing it apart.

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Test 4

1.5 tbs Algae : 4 tbs Gelatin : 1/2 tps Glycerol : 1 tps Vinegar : 5 tbs Water

Result: Super Hard and Opaque (Even the thin one!)

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Test 5

2 tbs Starch : 2 tps Gelatin : 1 tbs Algae: 1/2 tps Glycerol : 5 tbs Water

Result: Super Hard, Slightly Translucent (Feel more like plastic)

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Test 6

2 tbs Starch : 1 tbs Algae : 1/2 tps Glycerol : 2 tps Vinegar : 6 tbs Water

Result: Hard but crack after dried. It is most likely due to excessive water content.

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Test 7 (without algae)

2 tbs Starch : 1/2 tps Glycerol : 1 tps Vinegar : 8 tbs Water

Result: Super Hard

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Test 8 (without algae)

2 tbs Gelatin : 2 tbs Starch : 1/2 tps Glycerol : 1 tps Vinegar : 7 tbs Water

Result: Hard but like rubber

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Test 4 is the best outcome of all. Taking this to the next stage, I want to explore the aesthetic of the material for a more desirable result. Looking at the test pieces, they remind me of precious stones. Can I emulate the aesthetic quality of jade or marble? Will this change the preconception and value of plastic? These questions put me to perform more experiment.

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I NEED MORE ALGAE!!! Back to the canals!

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On the side, here’s the growth of microalgae – Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in liquid tomato fertiliser over the course of 7 days.

(Day1)
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(Day 2)

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(Day 3)

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(Day 4 – 5) – Away to London

(Day 6)

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(Day 7 – 10) – Remain constant. As claimed by Dr. Jon Pittman, it is believed that they stopped growing after depleting the nutrient from the fertilisers on the 7th day.

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Coming Up: Design Products

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