Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen has launched Aireal, a research project that puts a spotlight on innovative materials that capture carbon dioxide in their production process. The growing library currently features sixteen cutting-edge materials developed in the spirit of the circular economy, where waste does not exist and atmospheric carbon is seen as a resource. They range from building materials to bioplastics, and are the results of years of research from various institutes around the world.
For van Dongen, who works at the intersection of art and biology, Aireal is a tool for bringing industry leaders together and imagining new possibilities. “I hope to encourage a connection between the institutes that create these materials and designers and architects that can make use of them,” she explained in a recent interview. By shifting the way we see greenhouse gas emissions — from something to remove, to something we can use — we come one step closer to circular products that are regenerative by design, and that restore nature instead of deplete it.
Examples of materials in the database include an elastic textile fiber by Covestro, which is made using captured CO2 in place of crude oil, and can be used for a vast variety of textiles in the fashion and medical industry. Another promising entry is Olivine concrete, one of the first carbon negative concretes in the world. It draws on the natural CO2-sinking properties of the mineral olivine and captures up to 130kg of CO2 per tonne of concrete. There’s even a microbial protein powder produced using methane gas from livestock farming, that could be used as a food source for both humans and animals alike.
The Aireal material library follows Mud Well and Electric Life, previous works by van Dongen which explores the potential of microorganisms as sources of energy. In 2018, the latter was nominated in the What Design Can Do Clean Energy Challenge. To learn more about Aireal, visit: aireal-materials.com
All images by Aireal, photographed by Hans Boddeke.