Can we use lichen to communicate, in a physical form, the issue of air pollution & challenge our ethics towards this environmental problem?
The project, created by current MA Material Futures student, David Piscitelli, aims to develop a material that allows us to rethink our behaviour in relation to the global issue of air pollution. Using process inked to bio mimicry, the material would replicate the properties of lichens.
One of the most important organisms on Earth lichens are a symbiotic association between a fungus and green algae/cyanobacteria. As a result they have the ability to survive under extreme conditions yet are incredibly responsive and sensitive to changes in the environment. A symbol of clean air, lichens trap atmospheric pollutants; in areas with high pollution levels lichens cannot survive on exposed surfaces where they typically grow, consequently are widely used a bio-indicator.
LichenAir, a synthetic lichen, would act as an accumulator worn on the body as a second skin. It would measure and collect the pollution our bodies absorb over our lifetime. The data collected would facilitate medical researcher gain more insight into the effects air pollution has on our health. This data could then be used in conjunction with data collected from varied demographics around the world. This research would influence decisions within politics, society and, of course, the environment.
The technologies employed to produce the synthetic lichen allow customisation specific to the wearer’s body and skin, such as 3D printing to capture and render the morphology of the face. Worn daily, it would physically reflect the quality of the air around us. The lichen would, over time produce a library of samples representing the pollution within the body. Each year a newly created synthetic lichen could be generated as the body and face develops with age, enabling us to see deterioration or improvement in pollution levels.