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Milan Design Week showcases innovative biofilm breakthrough

At the world’s most important design event, Dutch designer Lionne van Deursen presented an innovative biofilm made from yeast. The eco-material could one day replace pesky plastic films that are notoriously difficult to recycle. 

Phasing out plastics is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

With 9 billion tons of the stuff produced over the last seventy years, we’ve created a mess so difficult to eradicate that plastic can be found in even the most remote parts of the Earth.

Not to mention, microplastics have been found in rainwater, human blood, breast milk, and even in the placenta of unborn babies. It’s everywhere.

Luckily, designers have been tirelessly experimenting to replace the most hard-to-recycle forms of plastic. At Milan Design Week, the world’s biggest design event, one Dutch designer presented a major breakthrough called Unfold.

Based in the Netherlands, Studio Lionne Van Deursen has been conducting research in hopes of creating a material that is malleable and durable, but also biodegradable and compostable.

The studio landed on bacterial cellulose, which is a culture created by mixing microorganisms and yeast.  When left to ferment with sweet green tea, the dried-out combination becomes solid.

This is possible because the live bacteria work to spin nanofibers of cellulose, producing a layer of film on the surface of the liquid.

The team at Studio Lionne Van Deursen then removes the solid sheets, dyes them with fruit and vegetable waste, and transforms them into three-dimensional shapes using special folding techniques.

Though they look like small fans and origami, the studio is confident the biofilm could be used for numerous purposes. Research is ongoing to figure out how the film can be applied in different ways.

This isn’t Studio Lionne Van Deursen’s first rodeo with biofilm.

The workshop has already launched a lamp collection using the material, but is especially proud of how the Unfold collection demonstrates biofilm’s range and malleability.

Looking at the material, it’s highly likely that a version of this could be applied to packaging for food, goods, and other items. With its biodegradable and compostable nature, it would be a far better alternative to plastic wrappings.

Lionne Van Deursen has pointed out that while producing eco-friendly products is key part of her studio’s mission, creating sustainably is also a top priority.

To achieve this, special emphasis is placed on using materials as efficiently as possible and ensuring little-to-no waste is generated as a result.

We can’t wait to see what they make next!


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