WikiPearl is a design that uses mostly natural particles (with the exception of the synthetic biochemical polymer, chitosan, and the algae extract, alginate) to create a thin gelatinous casing that can hold liquid products. The WikiPearl membrane is made from a combination of bagasse (a fibrous residue from sugarcane) or isomal (a sweetener), and chitosan and alginate. The casing is similar to that of a shrimp skin (chitosan) and provides a hard membrane in which products may be packed to avoid breakage. Electrostatic forces hold the membrane together. These membranes have significant water diffusional resistance and adjacent shells that allow for stability of the WikiPearl over time. There are a wide variety of membranes that can be produced for various food and drinks; consumers may produce this membrane using a WikiPearl Machine.
Most packaging is made of plastic--a product that does not biodegrade but rather just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. WikiPearls combine ingredients that have been made naturally for centuries into a recipe that may be consumed. While consumption of a bottle may seem to be an odd idea to some people, WikiPearl compensates by being fully biodegradable--it fully decomposes in a way similar to an orange or banana peel.
David Edwards (inventor of the WikiPearl design and Harvard PhD.) lives primarily in Paris, France, while he teaches at Harvard University in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is a member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Dr. Edwards takes an interconnected approach to his ideas, combining the logic of science with the creativity of art to develop technological advances, design solutions, and arts partnerships. Inspired by the water efficiency of a cell, Le Laboratoire and the Wyss recently collaborated to create new ways to transport water--a breakthrough that came with the development of CellBag. The WikiPearl idea became a side-project of the CellBag advancement and was funded by Wyss Institute in David Edwards ES20 class. The design emerged from an idea that devoted experimenting with ways to reduce the waste from packaging on food delivered to impoverished parts of Africa. Dr. Edwards wanted a way to deliver food and other nutrients to people without all the excess waste--what better way to go about such delivery than mimicking the packaging of natural fruit! Bananas, oranges, grapefruits, etc. all naturally package themselves inside of a protective surface we call a peel; others like grapes and apples have coverings we eat. Using the biological cell as a blueprint, Dr. Edwards, collaborated with French designer, Francois Azambourg, and Wyss Institute Founding Director, Don Ingber, to begin expanding on this idea.
Americans throw away 70 billion pounds of PVC plastic every year. A lot of this waste is attributed to plastic product packaging and is made at the cost of valuable natural resources (i.e., oil). WikiPearls eliminate the expensive oil-to-plastic packaging process and allow for food to be packaged in a fully biodegradable membrane made from all natural products being held together by electrostatic charges between food particles and between a small amount of natural polymer.Edit Summary