When we go to the store and looking for something to purchase, all packaged for usage and assume for recycling or the landfills, make you feel like a genuinely sustainable world is a daunting, if not impossible, promise.
But the Mediated Matter Group(MMG) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, directed by researcher and creator Neri Oxman, is expecting to get people to think creatively about the objects and structures. So, their latest study and art installation, Aquahoja I, the group designed polymers originated from organic matter, 3D-printed by a robot, and shaped by water.
Mediated Matter Group describes this process “designing for decay.” Whereas almost plastics, wood, glass, and metals are never recycled after they have endured their function, the group’s biopolymers are meant to decompose upon attaining the end of its product life cycle, responding to the earth instead of being destined for a dump.
With Aquahoja, Mediated Matter does three artifacts designed by its Water-Based Digital Fabrication Platform: a structural pavilion shaped like a closed shape of wings, a museum of material experiments, and a set of “hardware/software wetware enabling technologies” revealed by the group for the design and fabrication methods.
“Operations involved in this design are digitally composed and robotically made out of the most abundant elements on our planet–the very elements found in trees, insect exoskeletons, apples, and bones,” the Mediated Matter group addressed in a statement. “Cellulose, chitosan, pectin, and calcium carbonate are mixed and combined with high spatial analysis over material tunability fabricating biodegradable composites with mechanical, chemical, and optical functional properties across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters.”
The biopolymers handled in the pavilion and artifacts are all formed of chitosan, cellulose, pectin, and water. Research into chitosan as bioplastic for large-scale customer products (created from shrimp and other crustacean species’ exoskeletons) has been continuing for several decades. Cellulose polymers have been used to obtain plastic cups, while pectins and starches can also be used to make organic plastic films.
As Mediated Matter Group described in a new research paper, “Water-Based Robotic Fabrication,” chitosan, cellulose, and pectin can be sustained and melted in water, as well as recycled within minutes. The group said the water-shaped skin-like structures “hojas” (“leaf” or “sheet,” in English), it can be formed at the architectural scale or as handheld products. The group also says they can be created and developed as if they were grown and not produced. Since the biopolymer is 3D-printed into the artifacts seen in the exhibition, no assembly is required.
Mediated Matter designed the pavilion, which stands 16 feet tall from biopolymers. The polymers extruded by the robots can be best, or the desired performance with software to vary in stiffness, flexibility, opacity, and color, and the pavilion reflects these programmed possibilities. Its color ranges from brown to yellow, while the patterned surfaces match elements such as threads and tree leaves.
Mediated Matter Group describes this method “environmental programming,” and the organization envisions a future where the resources of built structures can be transformed relative to terms to encourage or inhibit decay.