This work is in early stages of development.
Cellulose is the main substance found in plant cell walls by the photosynthesis of carbon dioxide and water, and is synthesized by a large number of living organisms ranging from bacteria to trees. It is natures building material as it keeps plants stiff and strong, and gives animals energy and nutrients from the plants they eat. Since it is made by all plants, it is possibly the most abundant organic compound on Earth.
Cellulose brick, 2019
With biological knowledge, I have challenged the project to find a method in which lab-grown polymer can be symbiotic with sourced bacteria. I plan to explore its strength and understand whether it needs to be made into a composite and whether this is as low carbon as the growth on its own. Cellulose is natures ‘building bricks’ so there is a symbolic link with re-materialising it into a useable brick in our architecture.
Electron Scanning Microscope images of kombucha scoby, 2019
A scanning electron microscope (SEM) scans a focused electron beam over a surface to create an image. The electrons in the beam interact with the sample, producing various signals that can be used to obtain information about the surface topography and composition. I placed the kombucha scoby under the microscope, to gain further visual information about the symbiotic relationshipbetween bacteria and yeast, and to get an understanding of the fibrous structure.
Wet Kombucha cellulose 1, 2019
Bacterial Cellulose is otherwise known as a biofilm, which forms when bacteria adheres to the surface of moist environments. Biofilms cost industry billions of pounds every year in energy losses and product contamination, and with the ongoing development of biofilm management strategies, I believe there is scope for repurposing the by-product within architecture and design due to its strength and sustainability.
Dried cellulose pulp, 2019
I experimented with mirroring the production of paper pulp, which is commonly used for sculptural designs, handmade paper and crafts. I added water to the already swollen scoby and blended it in a blender until smooth. I then poured the material into a hot flat pan and steamed the water off until it was significantly reduced, and left it out to dry in room temperature. Drying a small sample took around 24 hours, and I continually pressed it the drying period to reduce drying time and to keep the surface smooth. The shrinkage was significant, as the thickness was 5mm when wet, and less than 1mm when dried.
Heat dried Cellulose, 2019
This piece is a thin sheet which was dried under heat of 60°c. The sample shrunk by 20%, however it is brittle and delicate.
Kombucha scoby, 2019
Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as a scoby. This scoby is comprised of bacterial cellulose which is purer than cellulose made by plants, which can contain other molecules like lignin and pectin. This cellulose is said to have similar properties to leather when dried. Kombucha synthesised cellulose is simple to grow, however its material potential has been limited to ‘vegan leather’, clothing, and using it as a material much like fabric. I plan to explore the cellulose to direct a use with my harvested bacteria, and whether there is scope for it to be used as a building material as a low carbon alternative to material which is excavated from nature.
Kombucha making, 2019
To make Kombucha you make a sweet tea using sugar and a caffeinated tea of choice. The caffeine speeds up the fermentation and the sugar feeds the scoby. You need to place a scoby and ‘starter tea’ once the mixture has reached room temperature. You then leave the tea for over 5 days depending on tea used, or preference on taste. The final flavour of Kombucha is fresh, slightly acidic and sparkling. Over the fermentation a new scoby is produced on the surface of the tea, which can fused or be separated from the ‘mother’ scoby.
Thick dried samples, 2019
You can see why people relate dried kombucha cellulose to leather in its appearence.
Laser cut sample, 2019
This laser cut piece of MDF was placed on the surface of the growing scoby, and has therefore grown scoby in the negative spaces.
Baked sample, 2019
I baked a sample to see how it would dry in the over. As the sample began to dry it quickly began to crisp up and even burn. I may have had the temperature of the oven up too high (180 degrees Celsius). However, it has created an interesting sample with a variety of colours and textures. This method also had minimal shrinking.