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Microbial.Cellulose: BioCities / algae / ecoMachines / urban designSeptember 30, 2016

Globally, food worth $750 billion is wasted each year throughout the entire supply chain and UK combustion emissions cause approximately 13,000 premature deaths a year. From an environmental perspective, food waste is an extremely inefficient use of resources and exhaust pollution is source of environmental pollution. From energetic and ecological perspective, every year, there is a huge footprint in London, and nearly half of them come from waste, which also equals to a large quantity of energy. And every year in London, fifth of waste are burnt, which caused air pollution. Therefore, metabolizing food waste and controlling exhaust emission should be the vital factor to think and explore.
In order to tackle these urban issues, we find a material, microbial cellulose. It is a new kind of biological material which could improve the waste and pollution problem. It can be produced by organic waste which is good for energy reuse. More importantly, after being produced, it could be used to detoxify the toxic gas and purify the air, which could relief the burden of air pollution.
In terms of this newly-researched material, microbial cellulose, some scientists and designers have already applied this into medical and fashion area. It is created by tea, sugar, vinegar and a group of microorganisms. It is a symbiotic mix of bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms, which spin cellulose in a fermentation process. Additionally, it is an organic and eco-friendly process that we can recycle previous fermented liquid to grow new one. Therefore, we intended to manipulate this material and apply it in urban level.
This project aims to explore potential manufacturing processes and application for this living material. By experimenting with different ways of growing and dehydrating, its characteristics could be commanded. By employing technology to manipulate this organic material, we are also thinking about maximizing its value and putting it into use. Actually, microbial cellulose is already being used for wound healing, so we are trying to use it more widely and connecting it with urban issues. The future potential of this material that can be ‘grown’ rather than ‘manufactured’ has been recognized and developed during the last decade by both scientists and designers alike.
At first, we start by brewing the tea with sugar and vinegar. And then add the living organism. After several days, we could get microbial cellulose on the surface of the mixed liquid. Additionally, it is an organic and eco-friendly process that we can recycle previous fermented liquid to grow new one.
At the second step, we changed recipe and control its morphology during its growing process. Based on that, we got different characteristics (pattern, color, density and transparency) through controlling bacteria’s behavior. By engineering the bacteria to work for us, we could make this material more rigid and flexible.
After that, we tried to transfer organic waste into this material. Back to the recipe of microbial cellulose, the only thing that microbes consume is sugar. And urban waste like vegetable and fruit can offer sugar. That is to say, microbial cellulose can be created by urban waste. Additionally, it is proved that this material could absorb and remove dangerous particles from the air. So metabolizing urban waste into layered morphology would be our target. We also aim to make our constant efforts to control nature and it is unpredictable patterns.
Finally, we applied it into urban level and made some proposal.The concept of this project is related to the urban metabolism theory, Urban resembles a huge organism which produces a lot of waste during metabolism and also presents a serious environmental issue. However, microbial cellulose is like an urban organ, which can accumulate waste and transfer it into a sustainable material. Thus, the design proposal is constructing a microbial cellulose energy infrastructure on an urban scale.We choose Canary Wharf to set our cellulose factory, which could provide material, nutrition and landscape.
The microbial cellulose project, after all, suggests a relatively integrated material system for the future life and carry forwards an environmentally and economically sustainable community.
 
Urban Morphogenesis Lab
 
March Urban Design 2015-2016
Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
 
Teaching Faculty: Claudia Pasquero, Maj Plemenitas
 
Students: Lipeng Li, Peng Li, Wenjuan Huang, Xue Xiao

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