ROBOTIC EXTRUSION OF ALGAE – LADEN HYDROGELS
With the current trends to conceptualize and fabricate material ecologies that evolve with the speculative engineering paradigm in terms of “emergent and self-organizational processes”. This research urges the development of new material systems derived from engineering biological processes, suggesting Architecture as a collective practice in tune with the evolving trends in the field of Life sciences.
The idea that buildings are made up of biologically-inspired architectural membranes has long fascinated architects. Metaphorically, a frequently applied approach is the stimulation of the architectural membrane to “heal itself”.
The research currently, in its early stages aims at developing a material that can allow the simplest of chemical diffusion pro- cesses (such as photosynthesis); metabolising the skin to establish a communication or an exchange system further learning and adapting to evolve into a self-resilient material ecology.
In addition to our research towards material development, we also begin to explore ways of making such ‘bio-membranes’ available on a scale relevant to the building industry.
The design research focuses on a robotically printed hydrogel screen that works as a scaffold for algae growth. The material composite allows the simplest of chemical diffusion processes, such as photosynthesis, responding in this manner to environmental stimuli that trigger or reduce the bio-colonisation of the gel surface. The proposed design is the result from the conceptualisation and fabrication process of a new material.
Particle simulations are generated through numerous computational algorithms based on biological systems. These space colonisation algorithms are generated from a single geometric point source evolving into formations and linear patterns that are then translated through architecturally applicable fabrication techniques.
Centrifuged algae cells are impregnated within hydrogel before extruding and printing with a UR-10 robot. The robotic tool paths are generated and controlled computationally, allowing for the printing of thick layers in specific areas, while defining thin layers elsewhere that can channel the growth of algae within the hydrogel. After extrusion, the gel is sprayed with a solution of calcium chloride in order to encapsulate the algae cells. The resulting hydrogel mesh is environmentally responsive, enabling the algae to be active when moisture is available and dormant in moments of dehydration.