Bioplastics: Redesigning Our Perspective on Materials

Bioplastics: A critical design study on material science

The research on bioplastics began from my interests in fashion and technology for the body. Advertisement and agencies have labeled “wearable technology” with definitions that fall short of a holistic summary of technology and fashion for the body. What about the material construction of a wearable garment? What properties of materials are designers and engineers overlooking and could materials provide greater user insight? For example, several highlighted wearable technology garmentsrely heavily on materials for construction of form and functionality. A 3D-printed dress generated by algorithmic formulas rely on polymers and software as components for the garments construction.


My research looks into the relationship between user and materials in regards to wearable technology: Can my website and bioplastic toy design encourage people to rethink how we use materials

I had the opportunity to interview, Dr. Javier Fernandez, who has researched on a bioplastic called Skrilk at Singapore University and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. The conclusion of my research was similar to his assumptions on user adaption to Shrilk: Understanding human behavior and educating people regarding bioplastic are the most crucial factors for measuring the impact of materials in society. Understanding human needs and desires take priority over the intent of whether the material was created to be applied for the body or as a product.

User-centered project of bioplastics as 3D printed toys

User-centered project of bioplastics as 3D printed toys


I began making bioplastics at home and kept a lab book of recorded of controlled experiments.  I was mentored by Alice Chun, who had written about intelligent Materials and also taught classes on sustainable materials at Columbia University.  I experimented with ingredients other than starch such as, banana peels, food coloring, grape juice, agar, and bone powder.

persuasive technology & citizen science

My research study referenced persuasive technology, which was coined by Stanford's persuasive technology lab.  The lab states persuasive technology is designed to change attitudes or behaviors of the users through persuasion and social influence. Thus, I wanted to test my assumption of using bioplastic toys to persuade my audience on the benefits of using natural plastics. My user audience group were children from ages 5-12 & their parental guardians. My second precedence for research is the practice of citizen science, also known as crowd science. I've conducted community-based research through interviews in local Long Island, NY.


I interviewed and ordered bioplastic filaments from the UK based company, Biome3D. The company's bioplastic filaments were plant-based and thus, were biodegradable. I used a MakerBot to print out my designs from a Rhino .stl file. My bioplastic objects were in the shape of marine animals to emphasize the environmental hazards of wasted plastic in our oceans.

Finally, I tested my assumptions and prototypes in 7 rounds with children and their parents. The research and process provided me greater insight into people's perspectives about bioplastics. I received feedback on the making process of bioplastics at home and usability of the website. For example, one parent commented that the instructions were unclear when adding heat to the mixture. The comments from parents and children differed but, provided me the necessary steps to adjust my proof of concept to both audiences. Surprisingly, many of the children I've interviewed wanted to see the 3D-printing manufacturing process after engaging with the bioplastic toys and website. 

Special Thanks:  Aaron Lehr (3D printing my file), Kyle Li ( Working the MakerBot)

Tools:  3D-print filaments (from), MakerBot, Javascript, HTML, CSS, & Photoshop