It sounds more like something you may come across on an outdoor trek than on a countertop.
However, in the everlasting search for a better way to make smart plastics another interesting discovery has been found.
The Chinese mitten crab is viewed as a tasty delight for some, a menace to many others and an unusual form of material inspiration for designer Jeongwon Ji.
When mitten crabs overpopulate they can upset land and water areas, and their excessive burrowing habits can actually cause instability problems for structures. Looking at available sources for manufacturing bioplastics geared toward a slow production process, Ji examined the crabs. In considering that these were mostly annoying and not typically eaten in England where they are unwelcome yet still occupying areas, the idea to combine the two somehow struck.
In studying the construction of their shells it was discovered they contain chitin, which is a naturally derived polymer that can be formed into plastic. After extracting, the designer and a colleague in the science field found that the shells can be crushed and the chitin can be mixed with red algae and glycerin until it forms a paste. Then it can be placed into molds until set, producing the substance for her BioElectric line.
Though the objects look a bit like uneven felt pieces, there is another more advanced side to the items. They actually contain discreetly designed internal electronic components. Ji’s search for an organically produced plastic has ended up with compartments that do not look at all like the conventional forms we are used to.
Complete with an LED light, air purifier, trackpad and WiFi router (can you guess which is which?) there is also more to offer in her unique design. Chitin is naturally an antibacterial agent, so germ free electronic casings could be possible. Also, since it is not manufactured like traditional plastics but is made from an organic, biodegradable substance it does not require harsh chemicals in the production process.
Her pieces will even dissolve in water, which is another part of the design. She points out that many plastics are made to be used temporarily then discarded. Her crab inspired productions are intended to lessen the impact of waste, like electronic consoles and other plastics, which are responsible for massive amounts of landfill accumulations and environmental pollutants from plastic litter.
Putting forth the effort to discover cleaner, biodegradable options for an industry that desperately needs them is applause worthy.
Though unsure how the shells are collected for use and what exactly this entails for the crabs, (and also a little unsure of why we need to come up with another toss away form of plastic) the concept design is amazingly creative.
Not to mention, they do look provokingly out of the ordinary.
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