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Neri Oxman collaborates with MIT to develop a water-based renewable material

Neri Oxman collaborates with MIT to develop a water-based renewable material. The team has developed an organic composed and digital manufactured material using a polymer from the ocean.

The process combines an age-old crustacean-derived material with robotic fabrication and synthetic biology.  Together this biologically derived digital fabrication process forms constructs that utilize graded material properties for hydration-guided self-assembly using a robotically controlled multi-chamber extrusion system which deposits biodegradable composites across length scales. Proposed applications for the water-based digital fabrication include recyclable products or temporary architectural components such as tents. As outlined in the group’s research.






“The structures are made of a single material system derived from chitin – the most abundant renewable polymer in the ocean, and the second most abundant polymer on the planet. ground arthropod shells are transformed into chitosan, a chitin derivative, to form a variable property aqueous solution. once printed, constructs are form-found through evaporation patterns given by the geometrical arrangement of structural members, and by the hierarchical distribution of material properties. controlled wrinkling follows. each component will find its shape upon contact with air, and biodegrade upon contact with water. living matter in the form of cyanobacteria is coated and impregnated onto chitosan samples to enable surface functionalization and impart additional properties such as water resistance and conductivity.”

Designer and architect Neri Oxman is a leader in the research of digital fabrication technologies and how they can interact with the biological world. Oxman has been nominated for THE DESIGN PRIZE 2018 in the category of Experimentation.


Photography by Neri Oxman