Checkerspot is a California-based company that designs high-performance biomaterials at the molecular level and aims to stimulate innovation through creativity. One example is the Pollinator™ Kit, a recently released project that offers everyone the opportunity to experiment and create their own sustainable products through the use of biomaterials.
The algae-based resin in Checkerspot’s Pollinator™ kit allows designers to replace plastics in the manufacturing of durable components, products, and prototypes with a material that has a biobased content of ≥56 percent (ASTM D6866, a standard method of analysis developed by ASTM International to determine the biobased/biogenic carbon content of solids, liquids, and gases by radiocarbon dating). The rest of the mixture consists of fossil-derived isocyanate.
The kit aims to replace traditional polyurethane resin, a product derived from fossil fuels found in many household items. Responding to the demands of designers and “the belief that artists, hobbyists, and product developers will be instrumental agents of change for the widespread adoption of renewable materials,” the Pollinator™ kit is designed to provide creators around the world with access to renewable polyurethane resins.
All materials in the kit – polyurethane, pigments, and ink – are made from algae, as is the mixing stick. This is used to blend the two components of the polyurethane system and also serves as a sample of the final material, showing the flexibility, toughness and fidelity of the resin in its cured form. The stick also conveys the color of the cured, unpigmented resin.
To better understand Cherckerspot’s contribution, a scientific digression must be made. As the company explains, much of the oil available today is actually the remains of prehistoric microalgae dating back 65 million years. Through biotechnology, Checkerspot is able to harness the natural oil production process of microalgae on a large scale to create new materials. The company has created a production method that harvests microalgae oil from large industrial plants where, after mass fermentation, the algae are mixed with sugars and then water is removed to produce the oil. The approach takes advantage of sugarcane, a highly productive, fast-growing photosynthetic plant, and a microbe that produces a very specific oil. The result is an oil production method with lower terrestrial, water and carbon impacts than many of the methods used to date.
Algae-based resin supports product applications and rapid prototyping that require precise details and high-quality surface finishes. These resins can be used with the same tools, molds and processes employed when working with fossil fuel-derived polyurethane formulations. In addition, Pollinator series materials are suitable for a wide range of colorations and formulations and are available with an algal pigment that turns portions in a jade-green colour, inspiring an appearance reminiscent of cerulean ceramics.
Specifically, it is possible to create a large number of products such as phone cases, surf fins, rock climbing holds, drawer pulls, indoor or outdoor furniture, knife handles, skate wheels, jewelry, and hundreds of thousands of other items without sacrificing product performance or functionality.
What are you waiting for? Experiment and buy your own Pollinator™ kit – at an affordable price!
Images courtesy of Checkerspot