Acoustic panels made of mussel beards

Belgium-based design company Seastex developed a way to convert mussel beard, a waste product of mussel fisheries, into a high-quality acoustic material.

Mussel beard, also known as byssus, are natural fibres created by certain kinds of marine and freshwater bivalve molluscs. They use the byssus to anchor themselves to rocks, substrates, or seabed. The byssus is inedible and is typically removed before cooking or packaging. The waste is generally discarded.

In 2021, Seastex received samples of this waste material, though it was unclear at the time what it could become. The natural fibres turned out to adapt to any shape shape they were compressed into, and possess excellent acoustic properties. Seastex developed an all-natural treatment process to clean large quantities of the waste and turns the byssus fibres into a homogenous material. Using a new fibre-processing technology, they turn it into a cloud-like substance they call Seawool.

The low density of the fibres makes them lightweight, and the easy processing allows for efficient and cost-effective manufacturing processes. The material is also naturally fire-resistant.

After the byssus is turned into Seawool, the material is used in Seastex’ Acoustic Byssus Core (ABC) Tiles, in which Seastex strikes “a delicate balance between aesthetics and acoustics”. The panels have a metal frame, an acoustic byssus core, and are covered with acoustic textiles, specifically Camira’s Main Flax Line, which consists of 75% virgin wool and 25% flax.

Photos: Beyond Print / Yeshen Venema