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. 

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A pair of glasses made out of bacteria

Called CyanoFabbrica, the project is based on the intrinsic characteristics of cyanobacteria.

Related: Scientists are cleaning art with bacteria

“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.”

Three pairs of glasses made out of bacteria

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. 

A woman with above-the-shoulder hair with a glass vial filled with a green liquid balanced on her palm

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. 

A gloved hand with a dropper of liquid onto a glass disk with a powered substance. There are also green vials displayed behind it

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. 

A blue gloved hand holding a glass film with green stain on it and green filled vials behind it

Ferrari hopes her work serves as a basis for further research on the possible uses for cyanobacteria and the process of biomineral precipitation.   

+ Cinzia Ferrari

Images via Cinzia Ferrari