Rachel's Final

160 Nano Biotech

Cho Kwan Leung (Rachel)


Week1 - Graphites and Pollution

Being in an environment where we all have ample resources, it is so easy to neglect the price behind it. I was amazed by the discussion on the process and the number of natural materials to produce single graphite and it also rang the alarm bells in my mind that we are overusing the material around us. As professor Vesna mentioned in class that 8 million trees have been cut down every year to produce pencils, this astonishing number leads me to do more research on “Plantcils” and to think of what other reusable or sustainable materials could be used to replace trees of making graphite.

Along with the huge amount of pencil production, deforestation is getting worse. According to a LiveScience article “Deforestation: Facts, Cause& Effects”, “In the past 25 years, forests shrank by 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square km) — an area bigger than the size of South Africa.” So why are trees so vital to both animals and the environment? In the article, also mentioned that more than 41 million people are having tree-related jobs, at the same time, trees play an important role in the ecosystem — maintaining the carbon dioxide emissions and the human respiratory system. Plantcils is a startup company that focuses on making new types of pencils with recycled materials, for example, old newspapers, cardboard. From my personal perspective, not only do we need to replace those unsustainable materials but the mindset of avoiding using them and protecting the environment. 

While looking for art projects related to deforestation, I found an art with Lego bricks project by Sean Kenney, he claims that “many species of animals in the world are threatened or have become extinct because of mankind’s destruction of their natural habitat”. I personally love how he used lego to build a 3D pixelated leopard so as to reflect how these precious species are being replaced by advanced technology. A lot of tech-companies urge consumers to buy new electronic products by promoting the idea of reducing papers and pencils. But how would we know that it won’t lead us to another pollution, electronic waste, in the coming decades? 

Derouin, Sarah. “Deforestation: Facts, Cause& Effects”,    LiveScience. 


Pandiyan, Arun. “Write This Way: These Pens Grow Into Plants Once You're Done With Them!”. LBB. 


Kenney, Sean. “Deforestation”. ART WITH LEGO BRICKS. https://seankenney.com/portfolio.php/deforestation/.


Week2 - First Time making bread + Hunger


This week, we watched videos showing the traditional way of making bread. I have never baked one myself but my mom used to bake Hong Kong-style sausage buns, which is similar to hot dogs, for me and my younger sister for breakfast when I was in high school. I guess it’s more a Hong Kong local thing. Therefore, I was very curious about how my bread would turn out during the class.

I attempted twice but still couldn’t get my yeast foaming up at the end. It should be bubbling because Emma and I used the same yeast from Trader Joe’s and hers was bubbling. But the bread turned out pretty good so I am guessing there’s not much to do with the bubbling. 

The process was so fun. My dough doubled in size the next day but I found it so watery so I added more flour and mixed it with my hands. I baked it with a lid for 20 minutes at 460F and without a lid for another 10 minutes.

The bread turned out pretty good with steam coming out. I shared it with my sister and she was so surprised that this was my first time ever baking bread. The crust is so crispy and very moist inside. I had it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and I can’t wait to make it again.

I have never thought about making art with bread until I saw the one Professor showed in class which led me to look up more art projects related to bread. And I found out Grain Foods Foundation has launched a project called the Bread Art Project which consumers can customize their own bread by uploading their favorite images for free. GFF will donate $1 to Feeding America for every single bread art created. This project aims at raising the awareness of hunger. It is good that an artist can make art and contribute to society at the same time. And I am definitely going to order my own piece of bread. Also, "In 2009, visitors to BreadArtProject.com created more than 25,000 pieces of Bread Art and helped raise $100,000 for Feeding America."







Week3 - Kombucha and the possibility to replace plastic

The process of making kombucha is more simple than I thought and it was so fun that I finally made one on my own. I used two English Breakfast tea bags and added dark Muscovado sugar instead of white sugar, therefore, the color of my kombucha is pretty dark. I left some space in my mason jar but not sure if that’s enough for my kombucha to breathe. I am pretty worried if mine will explode. I will definitely check it every week and upload its picture to my blog. I hope the first time making kombucha will be successful. 

Before class, I thought Scoby was only a drink starter for making kombucha. Therefore, I was surprised when Maru showed us some artists used biomaterials from Scoby to produce Biocouture, for example, jackets, gloves, and card holders. I had never thought about clothes that could be made from biomaterials. And it reminds me of a Plastic Waste research I have been doing in another DMA studio class that biomaterial products might have the ability to be alternative to plastic because of its reusability and sustainability.

While I was looking up for more examples of biomaterials replacing plastic, I also found out there is a research by Penn State University, “they developed a completely compostable material consisting of treated cellulose pulp from wood or cotton, and chitosan, which is derived from the mountains of leftover shells from lobsters, crabs, and shrimp consumed by humans”. The material is environmentally-friendly and reusable in which the Penn State team also predicts it might be utilized into foods for reducing fat.

















Week4 - Mycelium Kit and the potential of biomaterial


Being quarantined for almost a year, it is so nice to get some fresh air outside, especially in nature. This weekend I went to Laguna Beach Cliff Hike with my sister and her puppy Willow for collecting invasive plants. The process was pretty interesting because my focus was looking for invasive plants instead of hiking so it turns out like a Scavenger Hunt game. I wanted to collect eucalyptus on the trail, however, there was a lot of shrub and it was not easy to find eucalyptus trees. Luckily, I found Forget Me Nots at the end of our hiking in which the color will come out great in dyeing. Also, I found a branch of eucalyptus on a street after a 30-minute random drive. The app iNaturalist helps a lot with looking for invasive plants. Before, I had no idea invasive plants could do with color dyeing but now I am so excited to have fun in Emma’s workshop.



So this week we learned about fungi and mycelium from Kaitlin’s lecture, it was nice to get to know fungi could be a good thing as all I can think about is mold on food before having this lecture. And I finally started my mycelium kit, the process was easier than I thought and I am so excited to make shape of it later. 

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Continuing what I discussed in my last blog, I am looking for potential alternative materials that are sustainable and environmentally friendly in which I think mycelium could be one of the candidates other than scoby. As Kaitlin introduced in the lecture, there are artists who make arts with mycelium and bio-fabrication. So I found a pop-up performing space named “The Growing Pavilion '' constructed by a lot of natural materials, for example, mushroom mycelium panels, timber frame, floors made of compressed cattail, in which the panels can be disassembled and repurposed in the future. With that being said, it will keep growing! The artists Pascal Leboucq and Erik Klarenbeek wish to promote the potential of biomaterial through this art piece. Thus, I was also amazed that an American start-up used a 3D bioprinter to make an artificial raw beef meat. Making out of biological material, I am personally interested in trying it out. 


Here’s how my kombucha looks this week. The color is still pretty dark and the scoby is sinking in the middle of the jar. Will see how it goes in the coming week and I can’t wait to taste it!







Week5 - Natural Dyes and update on my kombucha


In class, I tried the first-ever natural dyeing in my life (thanks Emma!) and before that, I didn't even know what the purpose of collecting those invasive plants was during the hike. I know some natural dyes in food, like Indian turmeric rice and Butterfly pea flower tea. But I never imagined people out there are trying to do natural dyeing with ingredients that are out of my expectation, for example, chestnuts, onion skins, and brazilwood.

Lately, I started to realise textile dyes have been one of the biggest impacts on Ocean pollution during my plastic waste research. Fashion Revolution, an organization found by a bunch of people who work in the fashion industry, aims at “conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit”. One of their articles “The true cost of color: The impact of textile dyes on water systems” pointed out that 200 tonnes of water are used for textile dyeing in which 95% of hidden water is polluted ink-like water goes back to the Ocean. A lot of marine animals are threatened, therefore, natural dyes have been recommended as alternatives.

I also found some organizations that promote the concept of how natural and encouraging it is by selling natural dye kits. Maiwa, a School of Textile in Vancouver, wishes to embody the concept of the relationship between mankind, creativity, and Nature through natural dyes.  I personally like their idea of selling these natural dye kits so as to let more people get to know it, though it is a bit pricey, I would definitely love to try it out!

Here’s the result from Emma’s natural dyeing workshop, still waiting for it to dry since I just took it out. To be honest, I expected it will become violet color instead of brown, it might because I added eucalyptus. 


And my kombucha this week.









Week6 - Noise Aquarium + Noise Pollution

In class, we enjoyed some clips of the Noise Aquarium and Ocean meditation together. First of all, I really like the idea of the Noise Aquarium as I have never imagined how people can dive into the Ocean and listen to what marine animals will be listening to which I guess mankind is not able to do so. It is so sad that we cannot enjoy it in person during the pandemic. However, watching the meditative video in class (especially with a headphone on), it relieves my stress and widens the horizon of feeling myself as a marine animal. 


I’ve been doing research on how plastic waste threatens marine animals, but I just realized noise pollution also has something to do with it from Thursday’s lecture. As Professor Vesna mentioned, sound is actually a huge part for marine animals to communicate, navigate, and also hunt, for example, dolphins and whales. Therefore, I was looking for more art projects related to noise pollution in Ocean, yet there are not sufficient amounts of finished projects like Noise Aquarium. But I found an inspiring video “How noise pollution threatens ocean life” produced by The Economist on Youtube, it introduces Michel Andre’s project in which they are trying to capture all the underwater sound by an “Artificial Ear” they created and send it back to an “Artificial Brain” so as to understand how mankind has been affecting the marine life better. Though I couldn’t find more artworks related to this topic, I am glad that at least there are some scholars attempting to solve this problem and protect marine life.



Week7 - The hidden history of indigo pigment

I am so glad that we did another seaweed natural dyeing workshop in class, and it really has widened my horizon of how capable natural creation could be. So in Sasha FIsherman’s workshop, I chose egg yolk as my natural binder, and I took a photo right after I added a pinch of the indigo pigment powder which I found the colors and the texture look so great together. The mixture was pretty thick to be honest, I guess I should have added some water into it to make it smoother. Not being what I expected, the color turned out into a seaweed green instead of blue, but I like it a lot because Sasha mentioned this indigo pigment powder is made from seaweed, so the green color actually reminds me of its origin. And the mixture smells like sea and farm haha. Also, I drew some seaweed on my notebook too. 

The fact that seaweed could be made into indigo pigment powder actually surprised me as I always think plants that have sharp colors could be used for natural dyeing. Therefore, I looked up for the history of indigo pigment. In an article “The Hidden Histories of Indigo”, indigo pigment could be traced back to ancient India during the Greco-Roman period in which India started to produce indigo and products of it for international trade. Back then, indigo was rare and expensive. Later in the 6th and 7th centuries, Indigo was introduced to Japan through the silk road. However, the history of indigo could be traced back way back to 221-220 B.C. which is the Qin and Han Dynasties. It is amazing how just a color pigment has a long history and development since thousands of years ago.



Week8 - Topic connections


I created this diagram to connect all the topics we covered in class. And it seems like most topics are related to sustainability. And this class actually inspired me a lot on Biomaterials and how natural materials could be environmentally-friendly utilized to create new things. And I sort of combine things I learned from this class with the research I’ve been doing for another special topics class. This class has really expanded my knowledge of the sustainability aspect and I am glad for it. 

Starting the quarter with graphite, we learned about the deforestation and hexagons in Nature in which the huge amount of trees for pencil production has surprised me and led me to think if there are any eco-friendly alternatives out there. Connecting with sustainability, we learned about Biomaterials from Scoby which is one of my favorite topics we covered in class. Before this class, as someone who loves drinking Kombucha, I have never imagined that Scoby could be made into clothes and become wearable. Although Scoby hasn't been widely used for clothing, it is good to know there's an eco-friendly alternative for plastic, fabric that won’t hurt our environment. Also, I enjoyed making our own Kombucha! (now we all can save a lot of money haha). And I personally will encourage BioFabric development in the future and I believe we can definitely reduce much pollution by that. In the topic of Mycology, I was amazed at how flexible and effective Fungi could be as a biomaterial. And it is good to know some companies like IKEA have been using it as a new type of packaging material. And then, we learned about natural dyes from Kelp and Algae. I love this topic! And I really enjoyed the workshops! Before, I only knew natural dyeing for food, such as turmeric latte, butterfly pea tea, and Pandan cake. And I have never imagined I will be collecting plants out there and do natural dyeing at home. It was a remarkable experience for me stepping outside during the pandemic. Also, I learned more about this topic while I was doing research for blogs. Generally, I am so thankful for taking this class which has provided me with a special learning experience.

Week9 - Final

I don’t know if people have the same experience as me. In a huge bag of lemons, I always find one or two moldy. So I have been wondering why lemon gets mold so fast. So for the final presentation, I decided to dig into the relationship between fungi and food, and I also took a photo series of a moldy rotten lemon that I randomly picked from a huge bag of lemons. In a research study “Moulds and yeasts in fruit salads and fruit juices” organized by the University of Maryland, they studied the fungal contamination of 38 fruit salad samples brought from local supermarkets in Washington, DC. They found out 97% of fruit salad samples were contaminated with high levels (often higher than 6.0 log10 cfu/g) of yeasts, on the other hand, fresh and undamaged fruits generally have low level (less than 3.0 log10 cfu/g) of yeasts. Therefore, the result indicates that “yeasts were probably added during preparation and/or could grow on the various salads during marketing”. 

I also do more research on how fungi are involved in our food production. Fungus plays a huge role in fermentation and it has been utilized around the world, such as Kimchi, cheese, soy sauce, salami. An article “The Health Benefits of Fermenting” published by BBC mentions that “The consumption of foods and drinks that have undergone fermentation contain benefits to health that stretch beyond food preservation. The transformation of sugars and starches enhances the natural, beneficial bacteria in food. These bacteria, known as probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria are thought to help a multitude of health issues, specifically digestive health”. Although this research didn’t really resolve my doubt of lemon getting molds, it is good to know the pros and cons of fungi and how humans utilized it in a clever way.