Chitin Material Research
Investigating the composite, structural, and design implications of chitosan material.
Chitin is the second-most abundant biopolymer, and provides the material framework for a diversity of organic structures — from the wings of insects to the cell walls of fungi. Through this research we explored the structural abilities of a chitin derivative — Chitosan — developed novel composites, and speculated on the implications of design informed by such a material.  
This page acts as an ongoing and shared journal of those experiments.
Chitin material held in hands.Boiling chitin material. Chitin material in petri dish.
01 Pliable
Predominantly H20 in composition, initial samples are flexible and highly translucent. Material is fully compostable and dissolves in water.
Broken, golden hued chitin material in petri dish.Golden hued chitin material in petri dish. Golden hued chitin material in hand.
02   Rigid
Greater concentration of chitin yields a stiffer yet increasingly brittle result. Material transparency lessens.
Chitin material in petri dish with cut beats on side.Yellow hued chitin material in petri dish.
03   Organic Color
Brief exploration of vegetable-based dyes as a means ro introduce color possibilities to the material. Here, beetroot added to the material while in a viscous state produces a golden result.
Video of small text imprinted on chitin material.Image of small text imprinted on chitin material.
04   Imprint
Raised text included on a petri dish was found to have transferred onto a material sample. This opens up the potential for chitosan to take on the form of an almost unrecognizably small detail.
Soil-chitin composite in petri dish. Set of 4.Soil-chitin composite in petri dish. Soil-chitin composite in sheet form.
05   Soil Composite
A composite was produced by mixing soil with viscous chitin. Material samples were placed in a dehydrator to remove water and quicken the curing process, resulting in a lightweight and dry sample. Here, chitin acts like a glue, binding the soil together.
Seed germinating.Seed germinating in soil composite.Soil-chitin composite.
06   Germination Composite
The soil composite birthed the exploration of composite to test the viability of seed germination within the material. Sunflower seeds, peat moss and perlite are added to the chitosan in a viscous state, and then dried to cure. When the material is rehydrated, the chitosan begins to decompose and acts as a nutrient rich fertilizer for the dormant seed. The soil rehydrates as well, providing the needed space for the root system to establish itself.
Chitin material on cheesecloth.Chitin material on cheesecloth on petri dish.Chitin material on cheesecloth.
07   Hard / Soft
Hard to soft material transitions with chitin are still largely unexplored. Here, the material is poured onto a weave, and dries in form; cheesecloth provides the structure for the material to cure onto.
Chitin material in 3d printed dish.Chitin material in 3d printed dish.
08   Molded Structure
Molded lines add structure throughout, a replication of the organic crimping and folding that occur during evaporation. Naturally, the material wants to contract and fold over itself — guiding the material into the points in which it does so may be a meaningful potential to explore. Here, chitin was poured into a 3-D printed mold with grooves was to produce this geometry.
Video of laser cut chitin material being pulled apart.Image of laser cut chitin material being pulled apart.
09   2D Relief Structure
One of the most compelling characteristics of the chitosan material is its constant evolution. Water quantity dictates the material's properties — evaporation is rarely stable, and thus the material continues to react to the microclimate it is within. Laser cut patterns provide relief throughout sheets of chitosan, allowing this fluidity to occur without compromising the sheet.
Chitin material in mold being spun on lathe.Chitin material being formed in plastic bottle. Chitin material being formed in plastic bottle.
10   Rotation Molded
Viscous material is poured into a mold and rotated to coat the interior surface. The material cools and takes the form of the mold, however inconsistently. Evaporation process is hindered by a closed mold.
01   Material and Mind — Christopher Bardt
02   Water-based Engineering & Fabrication — Mediated Matter
03   Material Ecology — Neri Oxman