Carbonarium is a design research initiative aimed at uncovering sustainable material innovations with the potential to redefine traditional construction and manufacturing processes.

It seeks to inspire and equip designers, makers, and fabricators with the novel tools to create sustainable material innovations in collaboration with bacteria. It also serves as a platform for thought, encouraging professionals in the field to think differently about how we design, create, and consume in a world increasingly mindful of its environmental impact. 

At the core of this project is the exploration of a unique material creation process involving sporosarcina pasteurii bacterium. Through biomineralization, these microorganisms utilize potential kitchen waste, such as eggshells, and natural materials like sand, to precipitate calcium carbonate. This process binds substrate particles together to create a novel material. As a designer and researcher, I've collaborated with fellow scientists at Genspace to conduct experiments and develop this material. We use 3D-printed molds and controlled environments to harness the abilities of the S. pasteurii. Our approach involves supplying the bacteria with nutrients and potential waste materials, while carefully maintaining the incubation system to facilitate the cultivation of this unique material. 


The main challenges in this project lies in creating a conducive environment for experimentation and enhancing the accessibility of the incubation device. A typical environment might not effectively isolate the bacterium from other organisms. Furthermore, the nutrient requirements for this collaboration are mostly lab-grade and therefore can not be easily accessible to creative individuals.

Also, there are uncertainties tied to the outcomes of the biomineralization process. To address these issues, I've engaged in extensive exploration of more accessible materials and nutrients. Experiments have included the use of common household waste, such as crushed eggshells, as a platform for bacterial colony formation. I've also been investigating potential nutrient alternatives like agar, glucose, mineral salts, and other compositions, aiming to create an accessible nutrient mix that can stimulate bacterial growth.


The project fosters a heightened awareness of our everyday micro-interactions, encouraging us to rethink our behaviors in relation to microorganisms. By presenting an alternative perspective, it paves the way for a better understanding and a more harmonious co-existence with these microscopic entities. This approach opens up possibilities to transform conventional manufacturing and construction techniques, inspiring creative makers to adopt a holistic perspective on design and production that encompasses everything from our kitchen wastes to industrial processes, thus considering the welfare of our entire planet.

The design of our incubation device supports reusability and minimal waste. After sterilization, the device can be reused, optimizing biomineralization results. The primary inputs for this device are material substrates, bacterial colonies, and nutrients — all of which can potentially be derived from common kitchen waste or food-grade sources. This includes eggshells or other shell-based waste like seafood shells that serve as substrates, and nutrients from food-grade yeast extract medium, tryptic soy broth, or marine broth. Not only does this approach reduce waste, but it also dramatically decreases bacterial cultivation costs by up to 99.80%, compared to conventional growth media. Thus, the manufacturing process minimizes waste, reduces energy usage, and ensures environmental sustainability.

The underlying premise of this project is to stimulate a deeper level of design awareness and contemplation. In the context of MICP, it could also be speculatively employed to foster the development of calcium carbonate formations that mirror the inherent structure of coral reefs and aiding coral reef restoration.