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Clay 3D printing as a bio-design research tool: development of photosynthetic living building components

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



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Within architecture, microalgae are employed to address sustainability issues and mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This study proposes digital fabrication of ceramic ‘living’ building components as an investigative tool for design conditions. The health of the chlorophyte (green) microalga Chlorella vulgaris was monitored over two-week periods when immobilized in kappa carrageenan and clay binder-based hydrogels, and grown on a range of digitally fabricated ceramic components. The use of 3D printing is presented in relation to laboratory testing of controlled substrate variables including the impact of ceramic firing temperature, component wall thickness, three types of geometry for exploring cell growth, surface patterns to investigate cell migration, internal chamber subdivisions and clay type. The experiments reveal the benefits and limitations of creating micro-ecologies for algae growth through the introduction of geometry variation. In this study, the natural organismal sensing abilities are explored as a means for cell distribution.

Publication metadata

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

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Architectural Science Review

Year: 2022

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 08/04/2022

Acceptance date: 23/03/2022

Date deposited: 08/04/2022

ISSN (print): 0003-8628

ISSN (electronic): 1758-9622

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/00038628.2022.2058908


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Funder referenceFunder name
Research England