Knitted biocomposites as structural systems

Architects and designers Bastian Beyer and Daniel Suarez’s Column Project explores the structural potential of augmented knitted biocomposites.

To make the structures, Beyer developed a transformable, modular workstation that can operate both as a knitting loom and a bioreactor. Jute is knitted manually in a pre-designed shape before it is placed in the bioreactor. There, it is sprayed with an active solution of Sporosarcina Pasteurii bacteria. To catalyse the process, the knitted fabric is then sprayed with a solution of calcium chloride and urea. This treatment triggers a reaction with the first and solidifies the structure.

“This active textile microbiome creates an additional layer within the material hierarchy consisting of the time-based inter-relation between a living microorganism, its “host” material and its environment which could potentially be utilized for future bio-receptive and sustainable materials,” Beyer and Suarez say.

While the structure can’t compete with high tech fibres such as carbon of glass fibres, it offers a sustainable alternative to petrochemically derived composite materials. Additionally, knitted structures offer many geometric possibilities through different knitting patterns and material continuity.

In the current project, the different segments of the column vary in density and structure through varying knitting techniques. The designers investigate the structural qualities of individual patterns in combination with the bio-calcification process.

Beyer and Suarez say that their knitted systems could be used to make spatial dividers, shading features, or potentially even structural roof or wall systems.

Project credits
Authors: Bastian Beyer (Royal College of Art London, ArcInTex), Daniel Suarez (University of the Arts Berlin, ArcInTex)
Collaborator, Support: Soletanche Bachy
Technical Support: Eurecat
Photography: Albert Palen
copyright images/concept: Bastian Beyer 2019
Award: Autodesk/ACADIA Emergent Research Award 2018