Domaine de Boisbuchet, photo: Jeroen Verrecht, Boisbuchet 2009 © CIRECA
What could be a more fitting place to experiment with biodegradable materials than on an idyllic country estate in west central France? In summer 2010, the Domaine de Boisbuchet will again be providing the venue for the renowned series of architecture and design workshops.
All those who register by 27 June 2010 have the chance with Architonic to win a free ticket for the one-week workshop by Beat Karrer from 18 – 24 July 2010.
Bioplastic workshop 2009 in Domaine de Boisbuchet
Swiss designer is, for the third time, dedicating his summer workshop in Boisbuchet to a topic he has been researching for several years: bioplastics.
* What exactly are bioplastics?
* Are they natural (bio) or artificial (plastic)?
* For what kinds of products and in which fields is their application meaningful?
Last year's workshop by Beat Karrer 'Manufactured Nature', photo: Tine Kromer, Boisbuchet 2008 © CIRECA
To discover answers to these questions, the participants of the workshop will investigate a number of bioplastics: biopolymer foils, which are transparent, waterproof, and can shrink, and which can be printed on or welded. They act like a conventional plastic foil – artificial in every way. At the same time, they are also non-toxic, biodegradable, and can (theoretically) even be eaten. Therefore they don’t create waste – they are entirely natural.
In addition to exploring the material itself, participants will develop and design objects that can be produced from these biopolymer foils.
Shaped bioplastics, workshop 2009
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Moulding pressed from biodegradable PLA granulate
When half a century ago designers such as Verner Panton and Luigi Colani revolutionised people’s living rooms with their brightly coloured plastic furniture it crossed nobody’s mind that this wonder material that could be formed into any required shape would one day come to become a symbol of global rubbish and the ecological crisis.
Bioplastic made from PLA granulate, at the Vitra Workshop in Boisbuchet
However, there is hope: for years now international materials producers have been working on sustainable alternatives and they are now ready to launch biologically degradable plastics which can be used for a range of applications. The long-term aim is to create those everyday objects which nowadays consist of countless materials from as few components as possible in order to simplify recycling and accelerate the natural degradation process.
Material studies with biodegradable PLA fleece
Just as with ‘normal’ plastics these bio-plastics also consist of countless chains of molecules, the polymers, which in turn are formed from a large quantity of basic components, the monomers. In contrast to synthetic polymers, which are produced from fossil raw materials, the term ‘biopolymers’ refers to the origin of the basic components for the polymers, which come from renewable resources. Biopolymers are composed of materials derived from living organisms – in other words plants, animals or bacteria. These can be starches from potatoes, wheat or maize, cellulose from vegetable cell walls or proteins such as silk, spider’s webs or hair. The properties of the material are determined by the length and molecular structure of the chains. Depending on the manufacturing process and the formulation of the material they can be regulated and optimised by additives such as natural fibres. The variety of bio-plastics which have been tested is already impressive today.
Creating a fruit bowl made from PLA fleece, at the Vitra workshop in Boisbuchet
Creating the material is one thing but finding applications for it is another, because the cost-intensive development of new production materials is only justified by their use in series production. This is where the skills of product designers and manufacturers come in – above all those who are aiming at greater things.
One of these is the Swiss designer Beat Karrer, who together with the biochemist Michael Kangas experiments with new possibilities for processing biopolymers. The low-tech experiments in their Zurich witches’ kitchen produced promising results and these were quickly built on by cooperations with a number of materials producers and a research institute.
Beat Karrer at the Vitra workshop in Boisbuchet, France
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