6. Biofabricating

This week focused on biofabricating materials.


Bioplastics are organics produced from biological sources which have both airtight and water proof properties (refer to the article). There are three different categories for bioplastics; polymers directly extracted from biomass, polymers produced by classical synthesis using renewable bio-based monomers and polymers produced by microorganisms or genetically modified bacteria. This week I cooked bioplastics from the first category which consist of polymers extracted from polysaccharides (starch and cellulose) and proteins (gelatine and casein).

There are a lot of interesting researches done on the topic of bioplastics. One of the most interetsing facts about bioplastics is that they are biodegradable which means they have a life cycle following the carbon cycle. I came across very interesting research paper titled "Corn and Rice Starch-Based Bio-Plastics as Alternative Packaging Materials" investigating how the plant-based bioplastics can be used as an alternative for petrochemical plastics.

Interesting Project

The spiky Modules Used to Build This Curving Pavilion in Stuttgart, Germany. Made from a bioplastic containing Over 90 percent renewable materials, the spiky modules used to build this curving pavilion in Stuttgart, Germany. Refer to this article for details about the project.

Assignment of the Week

To produce at least two grown and/or two crafted materials.

The Used Equipment and Tools

The following picture shows the used equipment and tools to do the assignment.

The Process

Cooking the Bioplastics

I have cooked four different bio-plastic materials using the recipes in Bioplastic Cook Book; three protein bioplastic materials and one polysaccharide bioplastic material.

  • Gelatin Bioplastic:

The following image shows the setup and the ingredients used to cook gelatin bioplastic. I wanted to test the brittle gelatin bioplastic.

According to the instructions in Bioplastic Cook Book, the ingredients should be mixed all together, cooked over a medium heat stove and is stirred until the liquid becomes viscous and thick.

The material was very fragile and the portion got very small after cooking; thus, I decided to test the flexible bioplastic and to double the portion of the ingredients.

I cooked the material and after the material got cool, I poured it over the acrylic frames.

Thank you Katya for helping me with this.

  • Gelatin Foam:

The second gelatin based biomaterial I cooked was gelatin foam. I used the following ingredients and cooked the material as follows.

The process for cooking was similar to gelatine bioplastic. To mix and put the solution on a pot under medium heat stove. With wooden stick, I stired the solution until the all ingredients are homogenoues and then I left the mixture in the stove until almost all water is evaporated. Finally, I poured the vesgous solution over the mold.

The final result.

  • Gelatin & Clay:

The last material I cooked was gelatine mixed with clay. This material was very interesting and it had very nice texture. To prepare the material, I followed the recipie from Bioplastic Cookbook but I doubled the portions to have sufficient amount of the material to cover the mold. The ingredients and the process as follows.

It was very challenging to melt the clay inside teh stove by mixing. Therefore, I smashed the clay by hand using small amount of water outside the pot.

Finally, after the solution is cooled it was ready for pouring. Before doing so, I have applied mold release spray to ease the removal of the material after it is cured.

Pouring the cooked material was so interesting especially that the liquid looked like a liquid choclate :P

The final result was very nice especially with the textures of the 3D printed mold.

  • Corn Starch Bioplastic:

The second type of bioplastic I cooked was using corn starch and other ingredients using two portions from each ingredients as shown below.

Acoording to the cookbook, after mixing all ingredients together the solution is cooked with medium heat stove and stirred for almost 20 min. Then I put the solution in the stove until almost all the water evaporated.

Finally, after the material is cooled I poured it over the acrylic frame.

This material was very interesting and very rubbery.

Coloring the Biomaterials

I tried dying the bioplastic materials using two natural dyes that I extracted them from hibiscus. I cut the fabricademy logo using laser cutter and then I sticked it over acrylic piece. Before pouring the starch bioplastic, I applied the dyes as follows.

The result was not satisfying as the colors automatically got missed up as the bioplastic was very liquidy. To have a better coloring could be done by mixing the natural dyes while preparing the material just before pouring the material into the mold. It is important to avoid adding the natural dye when the material is hot as this will change the color. Another option could be to use food coloring dyes at anytime while cooking the material.

Cured Materials

After leaving the materials for 24 hours to cure, I got the following amazing results.

Finally, I put all cured material along with the ingredients I used inside the catalog designed for BioChromes.


After testing the different materials, I realized that according to the recipies from Bioplastic Cookbook, the gelatin bioplastic was the best product in terms of material strength and plastic properties. However, the corn starch bioplastic was very soft to the extent that made it look like pudding. For future experimentation, I think I need to reduce the amount of glycerin used as it is responsible for adding the flexbility feature to the material. In order to experiment the proper plastic features of each material, special equipment and advanced machines setup need to be used that is not avaliable in the lab.

Future Work

  • Test the ingredients with different portions until achieving the best result of each material of the best bioplastic properties.
  • Try backing the bioplastic in the oven to catalyze curing in a better way.
  • Biofabric from Palm Trees:

I would like to experiment making biomaterials such as paper or fabric extracted from palm trees wood as it is a very common resource in Qatar.

This material is interesting for me to produce soft fibers for clothing. It is very common to see the palm trees leaves used to make accessories or bags; however, it is not very common to see a fabric made from palm trees leaves or stem.

I am very inspired by bamboo fabric and how it can be easily produced to make a soft and highly sustainable material. This article explains how the bambo fabric is produced.

Referring to the fact that bamboos are monocot relatives of palms trees (Review the article), fabric might be extracted in a similar way.

Online DIY Workshop During COVID19 Quarantine

COVID19 was a serious challenge for us at QBIC Fab Lab to deliver workshops. However, it was a very good exercise for us to think differently and to deliver this to the attendees as well :) We have conducted our first virtual workshop under the title "Bio Fab Crafting" on the 16-17 April, 2020, in collaboration with Rabab Abdulla. This workshop has introduced the concepts of fabrication for bio-plastics and bio-chromes to make different designs for home lighting accessories.

Bioplastic tutorial video:

The following photos were taken from the workshop and the different outcomes that students have achieved.