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Innovations

Converting algae to bioplastic for 3D printing

December 4, 2017
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Dutch designers have developed a bioplastic made from algae. Photo: Antoine Raab

Ali Morris writes in dezeen.com that Dutch designers Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have developed a bioplastic made from algae, which they believe could completely replace synthetic plastics over time. The algae polymer could be used to make everything from shampoo bottles to tableware to rubbish bins.

After three years of research into algae with Wageningen University, Salga Seaweeds, Avans Biobased Lab in Breda and other institutions, the designers were invited to establish an open research and algae production lab at the Luma Foundation in Arles, France.

There, they cultivate algae, which they then dry and process into a material that can be used to 3D print objects. “The algae grow by absorbing the carbon and producing a starch that can be used as a raw material for bioplastics or binding agents,” they said. “The waste product is oxygen, clean air.”

Since February 2017, the pair has been splitting their time between their home and studio in a former paint factory on the River Zaan in Zaandam, the Netherlands, and the AlgaeLab at atelier LUMA in Arles, France.

“Our ambition is to provide all restaurants and catered events in the city with tableware from the AlgaeLab,” they said. “We are currently using our 3D printers to produce the same design in Arles and in Zaandam, one from French algae and the other from Dutch seaweed.”

The algae polymer could be used for 3D printing to make everything from shampoo bottles to tableware or rubbish bins. Photo: Florent Gardin

“Both have exactly the same form, but they are made from local materials,” the studio said. “This is the change we believe in; designing products that are distributed via the internet, but made locally.”

The duo’s research is currently on show at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam as part of an exhibition called Change the System, curated by Annemartine van Kesteren.

The curator sees Klarenbeek and Dros’ work as an important example of how a small project could be scaled up, to make a real difference to the world.

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