Typically, when someone mentions bacteria, it conjures up scary images of infection. But we forget bacteria can be very, very good! As an example, Italian Biodesign Researcher Cinzia Ferrari, eternally curious and armed with a degree in design, used her biodesign knowledge and skills to turn bacteria into sunglasses frames.
Called CyanoFabbrica, the project is based on the intrinsic characteristics of cyanobacteria.
“I chose to make sunglasses frames as the output for my project, which combines my interest in transparency of design communications and innovation practices,” Ferrari said. “The sunglasses sector is a field where greenwashing is common and undetected. It is also a market that is expected to grow, due to increasing concerns against UV rays and the growing popularity of glasses as a fashion item.”
The resulting sunglass frames speak against wasteful processes with the ability to constantly grow more material. Plus, the sunglasses pieces can be recycled at the end of their life, when the components of the CyanoFabbrica products can be broken down and used as a basis for new enzyme growth.
Developed from prior research, Ferrari advanced the technology of Cyanobacteria biomineralization to create the composites. Biomineralization is the result of a scientific reaction when carbon dioxide is absorbed during photosynthesis, changing the chemical makeup of the water around the bacteria. The resulting mineral precipitation bonds with sediments and polymers to form composites.
As a raw material, cyanobacteria is ubiquitous and tenacious, having survived through five known mass extinctions. They are found in every type of habitat and are the birth parents of the process of releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, long before plants capitalized on the process. As a result, the final design for the sunglasses was inspired by patterns viewed within the cyanobacteria strains.
Ferrari hopes her work serves as a basis for further research on the possible uses for cyanobacteria and the process of biomineral precipitation.
Images via Cinzia Ferrari