neri oxman and MIT develop digitally produced water-based renewable material

neri oxman and MIT develop digitally produced water-based renewable material

neri oxman and a group of researchers from MIT’s mediated matter group have developed a water-based digital fabrication platform using a renewable polymer from the ocean. the process combines an age-old crustacean-derived material with robotic fabrication and synthetic biology.

images courtesy of neri oxman



together this biologically derived digital fabrication process forms constructs that utilize graded material properties for hydration-guided self-assembly using a robotically controlled multi-chamber extrusion system which deposits biodegradable composites across length scales. proposed applications for the water-based digital fabrication include recyclable products or temporary architectural components such as tents. as outlined in the group’s research:


the structures are made of a single material system derived from chitin – the most abundant renewable polymer in the ocean, and the second most abundant polymer on the planet. ground arthropod shells are transformed into chitosan, a chitin derivative, to form a variable property aqueous solution. once printed, constructs are form-found through evaporation patterns given by the geometrical arrangement of structural members, and by the hierarchical distribution of material properties. controlled wrinkling follows. each component will find its shape upon contact with air, and biodegrade upon contact with water. living matter in the form of cyanobacteria is coated and impregnated onto chitosan samples to enable surface functionalization and impart additional properties such as water resistance and conductivity.’



designer and architect neri oxman is a leader in the research of digital fabrication technologies and how they can interact with the biological world. oxman has been nominated for THE DESIGN PRIZE 2018 in the category of EXPERIMENTATION.


  • Cool! But is the chitin sustainably harvested?

    Heather says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

technology news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,304 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample