Bioplastics – progress 23 April 2014


I chose to look at bioplastics made from a starch basis. I looked at several different “recipes” for contents and proportions and established some basic ingredients of a starch, vinegar, water and glycerin.

other ingredients


For starches, I looked at different things I had in my cupboard which might produce an interesting result. I had seen a video for corn starch, so I tried that, plus some different gluten free flours I have. I also tried some chia seeds and coconut, as these are things I have used in gluten-free cooking and I thought they might create something.


process presentation 23 April 2014.indd


Some of the materials created a firm plastic-like material very quickly (20-40 minutes after cooking), but others were still very unworkable. The corn starch was the quickest, and then the three flours. After three days, I assessed the results.

process presentation 23 April 2014.indd

In assessing the results, I used criteria partly based on ease of production, but also the resulting material and its workability, strength and translucency. This is based on some kelp lampshades I have seen by Julia Lohmann, where she uses kelp in sheet form and laser cuts the dried strips to form her art.

dezeen_Kelp-hats-and-lampshades-by-Julia-Lohmann_13 dezeen_Kelp-hats-and-lampshades-by-Julia-Lohmann_sq_5


At this stage the most promising starch looks to be the all-purpose gluten free flour from Trader Joe’s. As I don’t know the exact proportions of the flours in this, I will need to experiment further. I have already experimented with the rice, and from my experience in cooking with tapioca starch, it creates good pliability and translucency, so I think this may explain part of this flour’s success.

I also want to better understand the interaction of other ingredients and manipulate the proportions, as none of the materials I produced is yet strong enough to withstand even gentle wear and tear.

Fun with Bioplastics

My journey into the world of bioplastics has been a mad experience through an alien landscape. I went to the grocery store and I got me some cornstarch, thermometer, food colouring (ALL COLOURS BECAUSE I’M ~*PRIMARY*~), milk, vinegar… and went to the local pharmacy to get me some glycerin.

Here are some websites I was looking at: Instructables & Make Your Own Bioplastics by Greenplasticsnet

I still haven’t had time to do casein (milk) bioplastic yet so I decided to stick to corn for now. I’m really interested in chitin, algae, tapioca, potato, gelatine, sunflower seed, soya bean proteins, yam, banana skin, etc or more or even combining different polymers with fibres like flax and hemp. Bioplastics Party, anyone…?

bioplastic3do you take sugar with your bioplastic

bioplastic2I am an art student and my food colouring is very artistic 


bioplastic16my science lab

Experiment 1: using the Instructables base ingredients and recipe.

  1. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. 1 tsp canola oil
  4. 3 drops of blue food colouring

Experiment 2: using Instructables base ingredients and recipe but adding MORE water to make more pliable.

  1. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 teaspoon canola oil
  4. 3 drops yellow food colouring


+ HEART: I had some extra left of experiment 2 after I poured the mixture into the aluminium foil cupcake moulds so I decided to add a drop of blue food colouring to a single heart-shaped mould and let it mix by itself with the yellow mixture.

Then I reached a plateau because I was like, wait.. I don’t have a microwave. I considered this for a bit and then decided to just bake my mixture for an undetermined amount of time. It was 1:09 PM. I baked the mixture (all of the above together) until 1:25, a total of 16 minutes. Then I took it out and let it cool down.

bioplastic11 bioplastic13 bioplastic10This is what I do in my spare time. Much art very wow

Experiment 3: Using Greenplasticsnet’s recipe and ingredients

bioplastic5Random unrelated thought: is cheese a bioplastic?

  1. 1 tbsp cornstarch
  2. 4 tbsp water
  3. 1 tsp glycerin
  4. 2 drops of yellow food colouring

bioplastic6Please don’t ask me why

This recipe asked for the mixture to be heated on the stove. However, it did not specify what temperature, how long, when I should start the heat so I mixed all of the ingredients before turning on the heat and continuing to stir until it looked kind of kneadable and jelly-like. I tried with no food colouring and then a second batch WITH food colouring (red and yellow). I guess the second batch turned out slightly more malleable and clay-like probably because I still had remnants of the first batch at the bottom of the pot (…because I was lazy…)

bioplastic7Guess the Biofruit

bioplastic8I tried


  • Oven-baked cornstarch bioplastic is a lot more gelatin/jelly-like than the stove-cooked bioplastic. The latter is a lot more malleable like hot, soft clay when fresh.
  • Both CRACK and shrivel (shrink) when dried. This is problematic… I need to figure out how best to tackle this problem. Would refrigerating help? What about pouring resin over it before it dries?
  • I’ve read that the pliability of the bioplastic depends not only on how much cornstarch/water you put in but also the amount of glycerin. If you put in a lot of glycerin, there is the likelihood that the plastic will never dry, which is interesting.
  • How to stop the bioplastic from biodegrading as much as possible even if it endures heat (for example, an LED light…?)
  • The corners of the oven-baked bioplastic are interesting; they’re translucent/transparent and very plastic like.
  • I’m not sure the canola oil helped with anything except to form these interesting oil spot textures on the surface of the oven-baked bioplastic.

bioplastic17Cheese platter?

And that’s the end of this episode of Fun with Bioplastics. Tune in next time for further kid’s serious lab experiments.

ARBOFORM: biowood

Hey guys, so in the course of my research for bioplastics, I also ventured into searching for bio-resins… and found this!

Yeah that’s right. Injectable bio-wood.
“It looks like wood, feels like wood, is even made of wood – but it shifts shape and solidifies like plastic, bringing together the most powerful material assets of two of the most used materials on the planet. Lingin (an often-discarded element of regular wood) is combined with natural resins, flax and fibers that can be injected into molds and form extremely complex, precision-shaped objects normally made of conventional, non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastics. The result has been dubbed Arboform by its German inventors, and may well revolutionize the worlds of material science and mass production. Just like wood, it breaks down quickly and organically into eco-safe by-products like water and carbon dioxide. It is also made from a leftover part of trees that is unused during the paper-making process – over 100 million pounds of its main ingredient are created as a simple side-effect of the existing pulp industry.”
Read more:

PPS: I’ve also discovered lots of people not only making ALGAE bio-plastic but also bioplastic from chitin, the primary protein or something (I’m very scientific) in crab & beetle shells. Really fascinating – think of all the innovations we can make for the sake of science (and art) just by testing new forms of making bioplastic.

Intimate Science

I found so many things about this exhibition interesting.

As an architecture student, I found the mycelium construction materials intriguing. Phil Ross calls it mycotecture. I was curious about the properties of the bricks, especially in relation to longevity and their conductive/insulative properties, and also whether they have similar structural strength to regular bricks.


I went to his web page to find more (, but it seems this experiment is in the very early stages so he doesn’t have any of this information.

The other exhibit I found most interesting was by Alison Kudla. I’m not sure I fully understood, but it seemed that this printer deposited biological material onto a square substrate using an algorithm related to the Eden growth model. While it wasn’t working when I visited, I was intrigued by the idea of printing something living.


She had also created these beautiful tiled patterns in petri dishes of organic material, and the color change comes from the decay and decomposition.

004 005

The book which accompanies the exhibition can be downloaded for free here:


So the first recipe I tried I had found in the Green Plastics book. I was curious about using algae in bioplastics, but it was a challenge to find Agar, as well as sorbitol. I found Agar flakes which I’m not sure played a part in this recipe not working whatsoever.



¼ tsp gelatin

¼ tsp agar

½ cup glycerol solution

¼ cup water

The directions were pretty unclear but basically said to throw all the ingredients in a pot over medium heat. After stirring for 10 straight minutes, the mixture wasn’t solidifying so I added ¼ tsp sorbitol … still nothing happened so I added ¼ tsp starch. It did nothing to help create the plastic so I abandoned this batch.


For my second experiment, I followed a youtube video exactly. I got ok results except I think either I used a pot that was too big or the recipe maybe should have been doubled. It completely evaporated after I let it dry.


For my third experiment I went back to the Green Plastics (


¼ tsp sorbitol

½ tsp starch

¼ tsp gelatin

¼ tsp agar

½ cup glycerol solution

(2 x + ¾ cup water)

This didn’t solidify again so I tried first adding 1 tsp vinegar. No luck. Then added 1 tsp straight glycerin. Nope. Then I tried adding another ½ tsp starch. Didn’t work.


For my fourth and final experiment I followed this instructable –

The result is more gel-like than plastic but I was afraid of microwaving it for too long.


Intimate Science Review


The Intimate Science exhibit !


This project by Markus Kayser (the Solar Sinter Project) was interesting to me because it speculates about the future of manufacturing and energy harvesting. Utilizing the sun as a primary source of energy has been at the forefront of energy conservation for a while now. In this video, Kayser demonstrates sand being converted into glass using the Solar Sinter.


I was particularly found of the projects part of the PostNatural History center. It presents interesting ideas about the future of not only certain species that have been altered through biotechnology, but also the future of documenting these new organisms.


All the mushroom architecture were beautiful, but I’m allergic to mushrooms so it made me nervous to be around all that fungus.


IMG_1532What I liked about the Machine Project’s work, was that it added a different element than any of the other projects at the exhibit. Their project used both performance and participatory techniques that (like Genspace) aim to bring DIY technology to the public in an interesting way.


Intimate Science: a more intimate view

intimatescience20 intimatescience19 intimatescience16 intimatescience14 intimatescience12 intimatescience10 intimatescience9 intimatescience6 intimatescience5 intimatescience4 intimatescience3 intimatescience2 intimatescience1 An experiment in growing architectural structures from Ganoderma lucid, also known as Reishi or Ling Chi. The fungus is environmentally beneficial as well as a low cost substitute for wood, etc. Ross writes, “Mushrooms digest cellulose and transform it into chitin, the same material that insect shells are made from. The bricks have the feel of a composite material with a core of spongy cross-grained pulp that becomes progressively denser towards its outer skin. The skin itself is incredibly hard, shatter resistant, and can handle enormous amounts of compression. Shaping and cutting the bricks destroyed our files, rasps and saws.”

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