Last year The Bio-Integrated Design Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture developed a truly wonderful creation – algae inlaid tiles that are able to filter heavy metals and toxic chemical dyes out of water.
The Indus tiles are an incredible demonstration of the impact design can have on the world, taking inspiration and hints from nature in order to produce protective systems that are visually stimulating. These water purifying tiles are a breakthrough, enabling contaminated sources a new method for becoming safe and potable.
Clay is pressed into the fishscale shape that feature a series of channels which are filled with micro-algae. The algae is kept alive within these passages due to being suspended in a seaweed-derived hydrogel enabling it to filter the water through bioremediation, whereby microorganisms break down the impurities.
A wall of these tiles is combined with a pipe that pours the water over the algae-purification system, and a channel at the bottom that collects the purified water. The hydrogel is produced with a seaweed-derived polymer that allows the suspended algae to continue growing and storing pollutants. The originally installed tiles have been tested to be stable for months but once sturated they will need to be replaced with fresh algae.
Because each tile is individually attached, allowing for easy maintenance without disturbing the purification system. It is hoped that a system for removing heavy metals from the algae can be developed in order to create a closed-loop-system of production whereby the extracted materials can be repurposed by high-tech companies.
This system is not only environmentally innovative, but flexible in order to meet the demands of regions with limited space of resources. The tiles can be altered in size for a variety of requirements and the materials needed to create the hydrogel are available in powdered form to theoretically be produced on-site.
Photography by Andy Stagg
A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, April 2020.