Emerging themes

New materials frontiers

The future is closer

Imagining a more environmentally conscious future, designers are searching for new sustainable and renewable resources that can become production materials. Through studies in biochemistry and by observing phenomenon, new experiments are reproducing the behaviors that exist in natural processes like the life of microbes, bacteria and algae.

During MDW18 we confirmed that companies, large and small, universities, and artists have invested years of energy in this research, already seeing significant results.

These projects have a fascinating array of perspectives, which include scientific, experimental, creative, aesthetic and production design aspects.


We hope for applications of these new materials in the near future–and we’ve already seen some surprising results.


The Italian company, renowned for its products designed in plastic has repositioned itself in the debate on the use of alternative materials.  

With Bio Chair, Kartell proposed a product made from sustainable plastic: Biodura.

Already in production since 2016, this year it was presented front and center, as part of an exhibit focused on sustainability and biodegradable plastics.

bio [Kartell]

Photo: Simona Sagripanti

“Our recipe is based on discarded organic materials, with the addition of micro-organisms, to make a biomass similar to plastic, for a few extra euros. I have tested this material, named Biodura, for which we have filed a patent. The result is very aesthetically pleasing.”

Claudio Luti, Presidente of Kartell, in an interview with Le Monde at Salone del Mobile di Milano.

Read the full interview (in French): «Kartell, le pionnier du plastique, lance la chaise biodégradable», Le Monde, May 18, 2016


“PUMA and MIT Design Lab have been conducting research in the field of biodesign since June 2017. Biodesign is the practice of using living materials such as algae or bacteria to create products.

The exhibition in Milan, which is powered by the Biorealize desktop bioprototyping platform, will focus on how the next generation of athletic footwear, apparel and wearables can adapt in real-time by using living organisms to enhance performance.

The biologically active Breathing Shoe pushes the boundaries of biofabrication and enables personalized ventilation by growing its own air passageways that keep the foot cool.”

PUMA: Biodesign [MIT Design Lab]

Vegan design or the Art of Reduction

“For his Vegan Design exhibition, Nevi Pana wanted to further his PhD research to see if it was possible to make designs without using any kind of material derived from animals.

Curated by Maria Cristina Didero, the exhibition space is divided into five “mountains” that each presents a different experiment with vegan design – including salt, soil, clay, textile and trash.”

As told to Dezeen by Erez Navi Pana

Vegan Design Exhibition [Papi X vs Erez Navi Pana]

Photo: Simona Sagripanti
Photo: Simona Sagripanti

“The crystallising process in the Dead Sea can create a kind of skin around the product, and this is what unites everything together into one piece.”

Microbes I + II

“Biotechnology is the key technology of the 21st century. But where do we want it to lead to? The microbes projects by industrial design students at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle dealt with the questions of living production and products – focussing on biomineralisation as a natural production and construction process and algae as a resource and production platform.”

Microbes [Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle University of Art and Design]

Microbes I: Bacteria Produce Minerals

“The first project is focused on biomineralisation, meaning organisms that are able to create minerals. The main difference and also advantage of biomineralisation, in comparison to the geological and technical way of producing minerals, is that neither high temperature nor pressure are necessary.”

Microbes I: Lime Mycelium [Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle University of Art and Design]

Photo: Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle University of Art and Design

Microbes II: a day made with algae

“The second microbes project dealt with the question: how can we make use of this valuable raw material and not only substitute materials and products with algae but create new applications, qualities, characteristics and usage scenarios? In order to explore this question and provide innovative answers, exploratory experiments were performed alongside intensive discussions with various experts.

Marine Cotton [Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle University of Art and Design]

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