A stool ‘designed’ by plastic-eating mealworms

British designer William Eliot used plastic-eating mealworms to eat through polystyrene. The resulting design for a stool was then 3D printed in black-coloured sand.

To make the stool called Digested Objects, Eliot used 150 larvae of the Tenebrio molitor beetle, which have the ability to digest polystyrene, a material that is normally unrecyclable. Rather than use the mealworms solely for recycling, Eliot decided to explore the possibilities of biocollaborative design.

To ensure that the insects would produce something with roughly the shape of a stool, Eliot injected the blocks of polystyrene with sugar water, so that the mealworms would eat away those portions first. Afterwards, they were free to burrow as they pleased.

Eliot cast a few of the mealworm designs in wax before 3D scanning them and scaling them up digitally to determine which would make the best stool. Full size prototypes were made of cardboard, assembled slice by slice to capture the complex forms. Finally, the designed was realised through 3D printing using sand.

Photos: William Eliot