6. Biofabricating

Gelatine BioResin bubbles by Beatriz Sandini

This week we explored different alternatives for traditionally used materials such as plastic, other fossil based fabrics, animal leather and many others.


There is often a lot of confusion when talking about bio-material and it's definition. A certain material can be classified as Bio-based when it doesn't contain antrificial or chemically made substances, Bio-degradable means that a material can break in smaller pieces under certain conditions, what can take from a short time to many years for the full process to happen. While Bio-compostable can be defined when a complete microbiotic breakdown happens and usually in 180 days or less.

Searching more about this theme is very clear that there is not a standard definition for the terms and they are often mistaken or used with similar meanings. With the rise of new materials being produced in commercial scale is expected that more regulation and standardization of these concepts will help bringing them into a common sense vocabulary.

This article from Plastic Pollution Coalition also raises the topic in a very interesting perspective:

Consumer confusion over bioplastics’ green claims :

The labelling and marketing of bioplastics as “eco”, “green” or “bio” sends out a misleading message to consumers, who are likely to perceive them as more environmentally friendly and harm-free than conventional plastics. According to recent research carried out in Germany15 , 57% of people have never heard of bioplastics. Of the 7% who claim to “know exactly what they are”, 39% are convinced that the raw materials as bioplastics‘ resource basis are organically cultivated and 70% believe all bioplastics are biodegradable. Further studies show that people are more likely to discard bioplastics in the belief that they will biodegrade readily, which could lead to an increase in littering.

Extra : Bioplastic news | Infograph Biodegradable vs Compostable | NAT GEO : PLANET OR PLASTIC | What you need to know about plant-based plastics | Biopolymers fact sheet 2018


Starting with some very usefull, complete and yet simple definition of what plastic is by Wikipedia.

Plastic is material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and so can be molded into solid objects. Plasticity is the general property of all materials which can deform irreversibly without breaking but, in the class of moldable polymers, this occurs to such a degree that their actual name derives from this specific ability.

Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass and often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals, however, an array of variants are made from renewable materials such as polylactic acid from corn or cellulosics from cotton linters. Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in a multitude of products of different scale, including paper clips and spacecraft. They have prevailed over traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, metal, glass, and ceramic, in some products previously left to natural materials.

During Cecilia's lecture the plastic issue was raised, for me is very important not to demonize plastic itself, so I was very glad when it was mentioned that Plastic is not always the bad guy, if you want to have something long-lasting, resistant and yet flexible, it can be a perfect match. Nervetheless it's urgent to understand the overplastic production crisis we are living in, the dimensions of these numbers and the impact in our helath and environment.

And who doesn't love a super well made infographic? plastic-infographic

My commitments:



So basically plastic are POLYMERS. Some types of polymers for BioPlastic are : GELATINE, AGAR, ALGINATE, CASEIN, CELLULOSE, CHITINE, STARCH

These polymers can vary based on different agents, such as:

  • Plasticizer : to create fexibility | Glycerin
  • Filler : to avoid shrinkage | Egg shells, Chalk, Fibers, Oils, etc
  • Stiffening : to structure and reinforce | Fibers, Natural debri
  • Expanding : to creat foams | Green soap, Emulsifiers

To add color on the biomaterial natural inks and pigments or food colorant can be used.

Plastic can be assembled, glued, stitched, casted, machine cutting, extrusted and injected.

Is also important to realize that the bio-material recipes are not inventions but re-creations of traditional techniques that are forgotten/substituted by fossil based materials.


bioplastic lab experimentation

We were presented with many samples for the Textile Lab in Amsterdam and we started cooking our own bioplastic. The material/polymers used were: GELATINE, AGAR & ALGINATE.


Gelatine based recipes are very easy to make and vary a lot in terms of flexibility and stifness in the final material.

WATER RESISTANCE : Gelatine Bioplastic starts dissolving after a couple hours when submerged in room temperature water. It instantly melts when submerged in hot water above 60 degrees celsius.

HEAT RESISTANCE : Gelatine Bioplastic is not very heat resistant, it starts melting after reaching 50 degrees temperature. When microwaved, it dissolves within 15-30 seconds depending on the thickness of the material casted. You can re-use leftover gelatine from previous experiments, just by melting them (add some extra water and glycerine based on the final desired material).


Base recipe : 48 gr Gelatine | 24 gr Glycerine | 240 ml Water

Heat up the water in a pan, add first the glycerine and then later the gelatine. Simmer at +- 80° for about 30 minutes, until the syrop like consistency is achieved.

consistency should be something like this


gelatine-biosilicone-ballsbiosilicone in ice cube ball mold, with food colorant and golden splash

me casting the BioPlastic Silicone

Final considerations : I really like the final texture, the material is flexible and it seems resistant even in the middle where it got very thin. Since this is a easy material to peel-off, I would wait until is completely dry before touching it, avoiding extra shrinkage and deformation. The balls have even some bouncy property like rubber and it feels awesome to squeeze them.



Base recipe : 48 gr Gelatine | 10 gr Glycerine (I used a little bit less of glycerine so this recipe would be in between Biofoil and BioResin) | 240 ml Water | Colors : I left the base translucid natural color, then added some splashes with food colorant and also acrylic paint

Heat up the water in a pan, add first the glycerine and then later the gelatine. Simmer at +- 80° for about 30 minutes, until the syrop like consistency is achieved. I used a big acrilic sheet as a base, placed tape on the surrondings to make sure that the liquid was not falling to the sides. In this case I didn't make enough material to fill the whole sheet and instead of casting all in the middle, I kept moving while pouring so probably didn't help much in making a thin and uniform sheet.

Final considerations : Very stiff and some sort of resistant final material, I would let it dry longer before touching it, so the sides don't deform as it did.


Base recipe : 48 gr Gelatine | 8 gr Glycerine | 240 ml Water

Heat up the water in a pan, add first the glycerine and then later the gelatine. Simmer at +- 80° for about 30 minutes, until the syrop like consistency is achieved.

gelatine-bubbles No color was added in this recipe, I took a little straw and blowed some bubbles into the "syrop" in a petri dish while it was cooling down.

gelatine-bioresin Campeche and copper natural dye as ink

Final considerations : Very hard and resistant material, final aspect glossy and when shrinking also deformed a lot.


Base recipe : 48 gr Gelatine | 12 gr Glycerine | 240 ml Water | 10 ml Soap

Heat up the water in a pan, add first the glycerine, then the gelatine and after the gelatine is all diluted, add the soap. For this mix it is important that you use also compressor or a simple electric milk foamer, or even a straw. These tools will help you create different size bubbles, air/gelatine ratio.

Top layer pictures are right after pouring the other ones are after one day of drying: gelatine-biofoam

We also had a bunch of mixed Gelatine leftover pieces, that we melted and made some extra petri dishes, these ones came out specially beautifull. You can check more of the process on Loes documentation gelatine-leftover

Final considerations : The foam I made was probably too thin when casting, so after drying it didn't keep it's spongy/elasticity features. It was the material that also allowed to play more with color, not fully blending in one solid color.


Agar or agar-agar, is a jelly-like substance, obtained from red algae. Agar is a mixture of two components: the linear polysaccharide agarose, and a heterogeneous mixture of smaller molecules called agaropectin. It forms the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae, and is released on boiling. These algae are known as agarophytes, and belong to the Rhodophyta (red algae) phylum | Wiki font again.

WATER RESISTANCE : Agar Bioplastic starts dissolving after a couple hours when submerged in room temperature water. It instantly melts when submerged in hot water above 60 degrees celsius.

HEAT RESISTANCE : Agar Bioplastic is not very heat resistant, it starts melting after reaching 85 degrees celsius. When microwaved, it starts dissolving just after 30 seconds depending on the thickness of the material casted.


Base Recipe : 4 gr Agar | 3 gr Glycerine | 400 ml Water

Going back to Cecilia recomendation on this recipe I found this : This recipe has a large ratio agar x water, keep in mind that when casting this mixture it is important to have reached a thicker liquid state rather than a fully liquid. Shrinkage can affect the shape and cause deformation. I believe on our recipe we didn't really let the water evaporate a lot, so this process happened after casting. Most of the Agar based recipes shrinked A LOT!

Alkanet natural ink used as colorant, first picture on the left is after pouring, middle one after two days drying and the last one is after 6 days drying agar-with-alkanet

Agar BioFoil with avocado natural ink, the second picture is after 4 days of casting but is still wet Agar-avocado

agar-avocado2 natural color agar-avocado3 digital texture experimentation

Final considerations : I liked the texture of this material, is not very elastic and it seems a bit fragile. When drying it shrinked and deform too much, I would keep testing with it by adding more glycerine and also cooking for longer time so the water evaporates more.

agar & gelatine BioFoil

Base Recipe : 3 gr Agar | 20 gr Gelatine | 15 ml Glycerine | 500 ml Water

This recipe needs a long and slow cooking time for the best results. Usually ±45 min at 80 degrees give the best structure.

We made a experiment adding and cooking some tapioca with it. Then I added turmeric natural ink and blue food coloring dye, this was casted in a acrilic sheet. tapicoa-bioplastic

On the search of a nice and thin sheet me and Loes did one extra recipe of this recipe, we added a mix of red and blue food colorant to create a light purple. From that recipe we did one casting while it was still very liquid (around 20-25 minutes cooking) and a second sheet with the more syrop like texture (around 40 minutes cooking).

more liquid version after 3 days drying

second version after 3 days drying

texture test on PU fabric agar-gelatine

bioplastic sea agar-gelatine-sea


Checking wikipedia again, I found out that "Alginate" is usually the salts of alginic acid, but it can also refer to derivatives of alginic acid and alginic acid itself (...). Alginate is present in the cell walls of brown algae, as the calcium, magnesium and sodium salts of alginic acid.

Alginate bioplastic is made by combining two separate mixtures: one containing sodium alginate, water and glycerine (as a base) and a curing agent, calcium chloride. Calcium has the ability to form two bonds which will hold the alginate into a long link forming this gel as a molecule called a polymer.

WATER RESISTANCE : Alginate Bioplastic, once dipped in calcium chloride, is water proof with PH neutral or acid water. It starts dissolving in a couple hours when the PH of the water it is submerged in, is alkaline.

HEAT RESISTANCE : Alginate Bioplastic is very heat resistant, even when casted in a thin film, it can withstand temperatures up to 150 degrees celsius.

We made the three different recipes on the day before casting, the goal is to let the mixture sit from one day to the other so the bubbles can go away.

The preparation follows the same steps for all of them, mix the water, glycerine and alginate powder in a blender until is very smooth and uniform. After this step add the color desired, mix more or less depending on the final result wanted, let it sit with the lid open overnight.

alginate-all-colorsall our different Alginate recipes

When casting the mixtures, use the Sodium Chloride + water solution to curate the alginate, making an instant "sealed" layer. If casting on a fabric sheet, spray the solution before dropping the alginate and then after on top as well. When achieve the format/thickness desired, wash on water to stop the Sodium Chloride effect.

Cecilia's special technique of "squeezing alginate pimple". After spraying the Sodium Chloride on the bottom and top of the Alginate layer, by breaking one corner of it, you can squeeze the liquid inside out of it, having a thinner sheet.

some alginate deliciousness

BioFoil thin

Base Recipe : 12.5 gr Alginate | 30 gr Glycerine | 400 ml Water

This is the more liquid and easier version, better to create thin layers, was mix with black chinese ink alginate-black


Base Recipe : 8 gr Alginate | 20 gr Glycerine | 200 ml Water

A bit thicker version of the first one, because of my little mistake (adding 40gr of alginate instead of 16gr), we made 5x the recipe so we made 4 different colors, acrilic metalic golden, blue acrilic paint, soft pink alkanet ink and a clear version (without colorant).

casting on skin pattern textured PU fabric alginate-casting

wet & dry resultsalginate-fish-skin-like

wet & dry resultsalginate-test


Base Recipe : 12 gr Alginate | 20 gr Glycerine | 10 gr Sunflower oil | 200 ml Water

Very thick version with sunflower oil, made two colors, a natural one (white) and a pink food colorant one. The sunflower oil is supposed to make it more elastic and also works like a filler helping to retracts less, buuuuttt my experience with this version shrinked a lot when drying. I MEAN A LOT, would say something like 50% less then the original size when wet.




We tried to grow some mycelium with the help of Maud and Sarah (both doing research on it for a while and working at the Fab Lab) they showed us some different forms of the raw mycelium you can get and also some nice results they achieved so far. types

I must say that my documentation on the whole mycelium process is quite poor, but checking my class mates pages, I found out that Loes did a great job, so I won't mind refering to her page here and adding some extra pictures on how my process went. On Maud's gitlab page there is also a lot of info to source from :)

I inoculated some of the existing schyso mycelium in liquid nutrient:

3g malt extract | 3g yeast extract | 5g peptone | 10g glucose (white sugar) | 1000ml water


After 2 weeks - 13/11

My mycelium looked like growing very fine, but too attached to the borders of the dish, so I decided to open up, add more food and try to detach it from the walls.


I made a crazy stupid thing at this moment that must go into my documentation, to remember that a lot of mindfullness is required at this lab.

I used a little knife to cut the mycelium out of the dish, in order to sterialize the knife I put some etanol into it and then decided to place in the fire. Of course the knife was on fire, which so far ok, after the etanol evaporated the fire appeard to be gone, after that (I don't know why) I decided to grab the paper that was on the table, FULLY EMBEDED IN ALCOOHOL, to dry out my knife. Which immediately catched fire.

Since we had a lot of etanol on the table + the camp stove with a gas can, we all slightly freaked out but remained all calm and wonderd how could we put that thing down. I thought in covering with my lab coat, then Loes went for some more paper or a cloth, when I decided to throw it on the floor and step on it. Looking back was very silly and easy to solve, but also big potential for disaster.

The craziest part for some reason in the middle of all this, Loes started recording and we have the actual moment on the paper-fire-ball hitting the floor!!

Is it too late now to say sorry?

After 7 weeks - 19/12

After all that drama it seems like my mycelium got contaminated by something, was no longer growing and some dark spots appeared. It was time to say goodbye mycelium

mycelium-flush Moments before being flush into Amsterdam sewage system