aerium changes airplanes' structure into a performative biological system

aerium changes airplanes' structure into a performative biological system

recent developments and investments in synthetic biology, biotechnology, and genetics have made the design and production of biologically-based systems more precise than ever. inspired by existing projects on algae-powered homes and bio-synthetic materials, these developments show great promise in the field of sustainability and endless applications. aerium, a speculative design project created by hanson cheng, deepak mallya, julian ellis-brown & mi zhou, explores an innovative, performative skin in the field of bioavionics.

detail of synthetic chloroplast cells integrated with the fuselage structure to generate energy and clean air



bioavionics integrates biological systems with electromechanical ones to hint at how it will impact our future experience of flight. aerium is a multi-layered cabin structure that focuses on three systems: hydration, energy generation, and oxygenation. the first is a biopolymer coating on aerium’s exterior microstructure. inspired by the namibian desert beetle, this responsive material harvests moisture and condensation from the clouds.

bubbles of oxygen generated by chloroplast in its nutrient solution



it guides water towards the rear of the plane and collects it for onboard clean water and greywater use. the second layer is a computer-generated skeletal structure that minimizes weight whilst maximizing strength, saving fuel for each flight. embedded in this generative structure is a synthetic chloroplast layer, extracted from algae and suspended on graphene matrices.

chloroplast gel with graphene channel matrices that act like antennae and pick up energy from photosynthetic reactions



like plants, the organelles convert sunlight and co2 expired by passengers to generate clean air and electricity through the process of photosynthesis. together, these layers are used to power various onboard needs, reducing the stress on the primary fuel source.

a hydrophobic biopolymer coats exterior channels that guide water the collection points, harvesting clouds for onboard water use



currently, planes are inactive when parked at airports. with this new performative skin, we imagine a future where planes can become fuel cells both in air and on land, supplying excess clean water and energy for airports. the project is a collaboration between the royal college of art and british airways to celebrate the airline’s centenary. the work is currently on display at the saatchi gallery in “ba2119: flight of the future” exhibition which explores the next 100 years of flying.

planes of the future will transcend transportation: once connected via a gangway, the airplane acts as a fuel cell, providing collected water and energy for future airports

the british airways logo re-envisioned with algae particulates


project info:


project name: aerium

designers: hanson cheng, deepak mallya, julian ellis-brown & mi zhou



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: cristina gomez | designboom

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