Bastian Beyer uses bacteria to calcify knitting in building materials

London architect and designer Bastian Beyer’s project explores the potential of using knitted textile structures that have been biologically solidified as sustainable building materials.


Beyer worked with fellow designer Daniel Suarez to apply traditional knitting techniques to unusual fabrics before solidifying them using biological processes, to determine the structural potential of composite materials.

Beyer used a custom circular loom to create a 160-centimeter-high textile column

The designers hope that the resulting material could be used in architectural design and construction, as spatial dividers, shading elements, reinforcement, and potentially structural roof or wall systems.

The experiment saw a soft, hand-made textile column gradually transformed into a rigid structure using an active textile microbiome (a collection of microorganisms) from a bacterium called sporosarcina pasteurii to form a layer of calcite on the fiber. the knitted structure.

Bastian Beyer develops textile tectonics by calcifying knitted structures
Beyer experimented with knitting patterns varying in density, materials and structure

Beyer, who also works as a research fellow at the Royal College of Art in London, used a custom circular loom to create a 160-centimeter-high textile column from permeable jute and polyester fiber, both of which are environmentally friendly resources. environment and sustainable.

The column is made up of four separate knitting patterns that have been positioned based on the expected compressive loads throughout the structure.

Beyer experimented with different knitting patterns, varying the density and structure to test how the different structural qualities of the individual patterns worked with the bio-calcification process, and how these in turn defined the performance of the final structure.

Bastian Beyer develops textile tectonics by calcifying knitted structures
The knitted column was made of jute fiber and permeable polyester

The finished column was then mounted inside a rotating bioreactor, providing a controlled environment, before being sprayed with an active solution of the bacterium sporosarcina pasteurii.

A second irrigation system was then initiated, applying a solution of calcium chloride and urea to trigger solidification of the bacterial calcite.

Bastian Beyer develops textile tectonics by calcifying knitted structures
The column was mounted inside a rotary bioreactor before spraying

Microorganisms actively transform the internal microstructure of the material by depositing microscopic layers of calcite between the fibers, continuously bonding them together.

This alternating treatment was repeated eight times over a period of three days, gradually forming a load-bearing mass of calcite crystals within the fibrous knitted column.

“The material offers an alternative to composite materials derived from petrochemicals, as it is made from natural fibers and solidified by a natural process,” Beyer explained.

“Although it cannot structurally compete with high-tech fibers such as carbon or glass fibers, it offers a new durable, bio-derived composite with a new inherent aesthetic and characteristics for architectural design,” said he added.

Bastian Beyer develops textile tectonics by calcifying knitted structures
The knitted structure was sprayed with a bacterial solution via an irrigation process inside a bioreactor

Microorganisms sprayed onto the knitted structure react to specific external stimuli, which triggers transformation, which means that the material reacts biologically to its environment.

According to Beyer, this inherent property could potentially be used for material characteristics of self-assembly or self-repair.

Bastian Beyer develops textile tectonics by calcifying knitted structures
Microorganisms transform the internal structure of the knitted shape by depositing microscopic calcite crystals

Beyer and Suarez’s work is part of a larger research project called ArcInTex, funded by the European Commission for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

Viennese artist and designer Ebru Kurbak also combined traditional textile techniques in a modern way to make electronic objects such as an embroidered computer and a thread sound recorder.

While IKEA’s external innovation lab Space10 also showcased a similar project in 2017, when it created a four-meter-high bioreactor dome that enables the high productivity of green microalgae.

The photograph is by Albert Palen.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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