Experimenting with Biomaterials

This Autumn, Fab@CIC is starting a new initiative to learn more biomaterials and how to use them to help foster circular design ecosystems and making the fabrication lab more sustainable by turning waste materials into viable fabrication materials.

What are biomaterials?

Imagine if all our materials were nutrients. 

Step into a forest. Dive under the ocean. All the biomass around you - all the living and dying and building of habitat - is a vast and continual production of materials. And yet forests have no landfill, the ocean no waste water. For billions of years, plants and animals have evolved to make materials with a particular set of ingredients and techniques that other organisms know how to source, use, breakdown, and use again.

It’s time we took notes.

We envision a world where our plastics and composites nourish living systems. Where global supply chains are replaced by nested nutrient networks that regenerate local and regional economies and ecosystems. 

Help us plant the seeds for a new generation of materials.


Sample agar film. Source:  Materiom

Sample agar film. Source: Materiom

Fab@CIC has launched a Biomaterials working group to show how to create material recipes from locally abundant ingredients from our earth's living systems. We will share documentation standards so that your recipe can be replicated and iterated upon by others. 

What if we could make our own consumables that were biodegradable and sourced almost literally from our homes and backyards?

We be starting with recipes started by Materiom and building on and contributing to their open database. Materiom’s ambition is to build an open database of material property and performance data that can be used for material analyses, digital modelling and product design. This will include mechanical and aesthetic properties for each one of our recipes. To date, their initial data includes information for agar bioplasticgelatin bioplasticmycelium-walnut shell composite, and mussel shell-sucrose ceramic recipes.

Comparing the materials we are testing to other fabrication material. Source:  Materiom

Comparing the materials we are testing to other fabrication material. Source: Materiom

We are starting to use coffee grounds collected from CIC locations and are working on identifying local sources of other materials we can use.

Globally, fablabs use a lot of plastics, imported wood, and other materials with a substantial carbon footprint for single-use purposes. Though some of it can be recycled, overall the process is energy intensive and often requires additions of new plastic.

Over the next several months, the Biomaterials working group will be sampling, refining and documenting recipes using ingredients local to Boston. We’ll collaborate with other similarly minded groups who are undertaking the same challenge in their corners of the world. Our process will be an experiment in community-based science and will culminate in applying our materials to a public art project next summer. The working group is open to anyone who is interested in pushing forward sustainable materials in a collaborative way.

Fab@CIC logo. Nick Di Stefano

Fab@CIC logo. Nick Di Stefano

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Nick Di Stefano