In the endeavor of reducing the use of materials that are not environmentally friendly, Finnish studio Aivan in collaboration with scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University created a set of headphones grown from bio-materials.
//The technology and the headphones
The headphones were named Korvaa. In the Finnish language, it has an anatomical meaning” Korva”, “ear.” While “Korvaa” is a verb, meaning “to substitute, compensate or replace.” Korvaa explores the design and functionalities of new, bio-based, microbially grown materials. A speculative project that brings the reflection on the possibility, in the near future, to us bio-materials in everyday projects that initially we would not take into consideration.
Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC, Rubber, as well as foa, are the main materials in most headphones.. The padding of the headphones is of foam pads, covered by latex or synthetic leather. PVC is very toxic, and such a mix of materials makes it more difficult to recycle. A solution comes in handy using synbio; in other words, Synthetic Biology, a disruptive technology that allows the design and engineering of new biological organisms. At the same time, it enables the re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes such as growing new products. This technology wants to accelerate the transition from a fossil-based economy to a more sustainable one.
//3D printing process
The implementation of the microbially grown materials in a 3D project such as Korvaa wants to be an example of how everyday objects could look in the future. The team chose this object for the same reason mentioned above; the variety of materials, which makes the product difficult to recycle. Korvaa has a rigid plastic frame made of a petroleum-free bioplastic, grown using the lactic acid in baker’s yeast. Korvaa 3d printed using the polylactic acid (PLA) polymer, which is biodegradable.
Photography: Courtesy of Aivan.
Mycelium covers the foam— the root-like part of a fungus, widely used in interior design or packaging is a topic discussed in a recent “It’s Trending: The Mushroom Universe.”
The fungus used in this project is phanerochaete chrysosporium. It has a leathery texture, so it sits comfortably on the ears. Headphones also require a cover for the speakers; in this case, a microbially produced protein based on spider silk. In a not so far away future, we could be able to self 3D print our own set of headphones grown from bio-materials; or any other object we might need!
If you want to read more about Mindful Design that into consideration the impact on the environment, read here.