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MADE BY CALCIFIED MICROBES
biotiles

Collaboration between:  Thora H Arnardottir & Brynja Gudnadottir

Project assistant: Soley Sara Eiriksdottir

This project is supported by:

  • The Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment

  • Design Council Iceland (Hönnunarsjóður).

  • Student Innovation Fund (Nýsköpunarsjóður Námsmanna) to employ a student to work with us. 

  • Women Entrepreneur grant in Iceland towards a business plan.

  • 1st call of the WORTH II Partnership Project, funded by the European Commission under COSME, the EU Programme for the competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

  •  Developmental Seed Fund (Fræ).

  • GURU Research and Events Award, Newcastle University. 

The BioTiles project is a collaboration between Thora Arnardottir and Brynja Gudnadottir that aims at developing biocomposite tiles from bacterial biomineralization in bespoke casts hosting Icelandic volcanic sand for a live build project, first of its kind, eco-house in a national park in Iceland. 

Cities are suffocating. According to the UN, the construction industry accounts for almost 40% of annual CO2 emissions.  We believe that a shift away from the standard processes, materials and perspectives characterising the building industry is necessary to change this situation and empower local communities to cultivate their environments rather than build on them and at their expense. This project, combining microbiology and design, proposes to develop a solution that mobilises locally sourced materials for the on-site production of interior wall tiles. Using volcanic materials, which are extremely light and easily found in the Icelandic landscape, our project aims at developing bespoke moulds to cast tiles that blend in with the local landscape with the aid of a natural process that does not require high heat or high energy. This process is called biomineralization and occurs thanks to the action of bacteria capable of binding sand-sized particles into materials similar to sandstone. While the majority of the construction materials deployed in Iceland are imported, our project proposes a scalable, local solution for a global problem.

This project builds on over five years of Thora´s research experience in which she has established a method for microbial casting which enables an even distribution of bacteria, nutrients and reactants through a cast as a prototype system which is robust and repeatable and capable of being deployed in a commercial setting using a cement-free, low-energy input process.

PUBLICATIONS, TALKS & EXHIBITIONS:

(2022) BioTiles project presented at the Climate Literacy Emergency Workshop, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University.

(2022) Developing bio titles from sand and bacteria. Interview in Frettabladid