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A biomaterial made of an ancient legume

UK-based designer Caroline Hyde-Brown developed a paper-like biomaterial made of an ancient legume called grass pea, also known as “insurance crop”. 

Grass pea is a surprisingly hardy plant, being able to survive extreme conditions including drought, rising water levels and salinity, which is where it gets its nickname. Unfortunately, the legume is toxic if consumed in large quantities.

These conditions are the exact ones in an area in West Bengal in the Sundarbans, India, as a result of climate change. World leading plant research centre John Innes in Norwich in the UK developed a special variety of grass pea, which contains less toxins, making it safe to consume even in large quantities, which was distributed in the Sundarbans.

Using the residual waste of the legume, Hyde-Brown developed a paper making recipe using harvested rainwater and heat from the sun, as the Sundarbans’ communities are some of the poorest in the world. The material was used to make a prototype shoe, a lampshade and bowls.

The materials are being produced by the John Innes centre.

Photos: Carolyne Hyde-Brown