Q: How did you first get the idea for your diploma project, Growing Products?
I first discovered bacterial grown cellulose through the designer and researcher Suzanne Lee, who made some jackets out of “home grown” cellulose. I found that the recipe she was using only required accessible ingredients and equipment, so simply had to test to grow this intriguing material myself. Learning more about the remarkable properties of the material made me curious whether other product might benefit of being “grown” using this method.
Q: You say you can use fruit, vegetable, sugar or even grass to feed the bacteria and grow the cellulose. Do you think growing material out of food scraps could be a way of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills?
These types of food scraps are degradable, but it is interesting that it could be given a second life as a raw material for other products. In this way we could save our current precious raw material sources like the forest or fields. I think it is especially interesting when you can grow the products near the food waste source, to also save transport emissions.
Q: What happens at the end of the product lifecycle? Is the material biodegradable?
Bacterial cellulose consists of 100% pure cellulose which is fully degradable.
Q: Your Tumblr gives step-by-step advice on how people can grow their own cellulose at home. What made you want to share this information?
We need material innovation to deal with a future lack of cellulose- and plastic-based raw materials and to brake our unacceptable pollution. I hope to contribute to this innovation and welcome others to build upon the knowledge I gained during this project.
Q: Three products came out of your project: potato chip bags, cellphone covers and sanitary pads. Why choose those three products, and what other applications would you expect to see for material made from bacterial cellulose in the future?
I chose these three products to show the variety of properties of the material and the different production scales it could be interesting for. The thin, aroma-tight potato chip bag is grown from potato peel and could be a sustainable alternative to our current packaging. The cell phone covers are an example of an easy access project you can grow at home. It shows how the material can become almost like leather, but with extra features like transparency and conductivity. The sanitary pads show the great absorbency of the material. The pads are decomposable and could be grown at home for those who cannot afford regular menstrual protection.
Today bacterial cellulose is used for food, medical equipment and headphones. For the material to function on a large-scale production level we need to have more knowledge of which nutrition source that would be suitable to use, how to speed up the growing process and how to better control the material properties. With more efficient production methods the material could possibly be used instead of fabric, leather or paper. The progress in synthetic biology might make it possible to produce waterproof, more elastic material bacterial cellulose, with could be a great alternative to plastic.