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Photosynthetic textile biocomposites: using laboratory testing and digital fabrication to develop flexible living building materials

Lookup NU author(s): Assia Stefanova, Warm In-Na, Dr Gary Caldwell, Professor Ben BridgensORCiD, Professor Rachel Armstrong



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Urban development and the construction industry account for a considerable proportion of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Emerging biological materials, such as those proposed in this paper, seek to utilize the metabolic functions of living microorganisms to reduce some of the negative impacts of humans on the environment. The material explorations demonstrated in this paper propose a living photosynthetic carbon capture textile for the built environment. We demonstrate making practices that integrate living microorganisms within experimental methods of digital fabrication; specifically, harnessing photosynthetic microalgae that feed on waste and are capable of sequestering CO2 from internal building settings. These new biocomposites incorporate flexible textile substrates i.e. cotton, hessian, polyester and canvas, that provide a range of algae laden matrices that continue to develop and change during the useful part of the material’s lifecycle. This paper explores biological 3D printing fabrication processes and studies the development of mixtures that are compatible with the fabrication method and which support microalgae (Chlorella vulgaris) metabolic processes. A range of incubation methods are assessed, highlighting the need for a support environment. The biocomposites’ performance is tested using imaging pulse amplitude modulation fluorometry (Imaging-PAM) to investigate changes in microalgae chlorophyll fluorescence over a 14 day period.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stefanova A, In-na P, Caldwell GS, Bridgens B, Armstrong R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science and Engineering of Composite Materials

Year: 2021

Volume: 28

Issue: 1

Pages: 223-236

Online publication date: 20/05/2021

Acceptance date: 29/01/2021

Date deposited: 31/03/2021

ISSN (print): 0334-181X

ISSN (electronic): 2191-0359

Publisher: De Gruyter


DOI: 10.1515/secm-2021-0023


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