It colours our eyes and our skin and shields us from the sun, but could melanin have uses outside of biology? Scientists at MIT think it’s only a matter of time before melanin has uses in the construction industry.
According to biologists the properties of melanin, found in plants, animals and humans, protects microorganisms from high temperatures, chemical stress and biochemical threats. It makes sense then that the team at MIT are ready to see that implemented in the construction industry.
Equally, through observing how fungi use melanin, melanin can be utilised to harvest energy for cell growth.
"MIT have been researching the practical applications of melanin in the hopes that it can be implemented in the construction industry."
As the earth heats up and extreme weather becomes the norm across areas unused to high temperatures and strong winds, it’s important to look at the longevity of our builds.
The aim of utilising melanin for construction is not dissimilar to the hopes scientists have for algae and mycellium, they want to create construction materials which are more harmonious with the environment. Producing their own energy, self healing and ultimately green.
"The aim of utilising melanin for construction is to create a construction material which is more harmonious with the environment."
This idea has first been explored in an exhibition by Neri Oxman and team at The Mediated Matter Group. They injected liquid melanin in to acrylic bricks. This has created gorgeous and almost otherworldly patterns displaying the beauty and diversity of melanin. Thus this proves that not only will melanin have the potential as a green construction material but also a wonderful addition to the overall aesthetics of the build.
The contribution to the exhibition was a final piece for the theoretical research Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group had done on the subject of melanin in construction and architecture.
Oxman had this to say on the project: "The project is released during a time when biodiversity on planet earth is under momentous threat. My team and I have been in search of materials and chemical substances that can sustain and enhance biodiversity across living systems, which have thus far endured the perils of climate changes. Melanin is one such substance."
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