Our microbial weaving process was inspired by the natural growing behaviour of a bacteria called k.rhaeticus, which is one of the bacteria often found in kombucha tea. It produces a material called nanocellulose, which has long fascinated both scientists and designers for its unique properties.
Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on earth and the building block for most plant based materials from cotton to linen to wood. We believe this versatile fibre will play a vital role in the transition to the new circular economy because it’s inherently low-cost, biodegradable, and, as evident in nature, adaptable to many different applications. At nanoscale, though, it gets even more interesting. On a fibre level, this material is actually up to 8 times stronger than steel and stiffer then kevlar. And when it’s grown by bacteria (bacterial cellulose), the material becomes a tightly packed mesh of fibres that are so small, they appear to us like a semi-transparent film or gel.
But we were actually most inspired by the way the bacteria grow the material. Looking under a microscope, the bacteria look like tiny weaving shuttles, leaving a tiny trail of fibres in their path. By studying this natural process and manipulating the conditions for growth, we were able to collaborate with the bacteria to make a new type of material made part by human, part by microbe. This is microbial weaving.
K. rhaeticus Bacteria trail tiny fibers of cellulose behind them as they grow formed a dense non-woven film
Organism driven design
There’s a lot we can learn from nature in regards to materials. After all, nature has had 3.8 billion years to perfect the ultimate circular economy, which is life. Perhaps a better understanding of biology could help us rethink our own fabrication systems.
“Nature doesn’t make materials in sheets
then cut them for assembly as we
manufacture things today.”
Jen Keane, Co-founder
The use of biological materials and mechanisms for construction.
An insoluble substance which is the main constituent of plant cell walls and of vegetable fibres such as cotton. It’s the most abundant polymer on the planet.
Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.
A thread or filament from which a vegetable tissue, mineral substance, or textile is formed. Textiles are made up of yarns which are made up of fibres.
Warp and weft
The two basic components used in weaving to turn thread or yarn into fabric. The lengthwise or longitudinal warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom while the transverse weft (sometimes woof) is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp.
To interlace (threads, yarns, strips, fibrous materials, etc.) so as to form a fabric or material.