What if we replaced plastic with … mushrooms? Well, this is the proposal of Aivan, a Finnish design company that designed a pair of headphones that uses bioplastics and derivatives of microbes to replace other, not so environmentally friendly, materials in some of today's most widely used electronics .
This first prototype, called Korvaa, consists of a ring, printed in 3D, using bioplastics made from lactic acid produced with yeasts. The idea is to replace the more traditional materials, such as plastic and leather, with ecological substances whose environmental footprint is low, especially when compared to that of petroleum products.
The coating of the "pads" that rest on the ears are made of hydrophobin, a spongy protein, produced by fungi, and vegetable cellulose. The net that protects the loudspeakers is made of a type of silk produced by microbes. The composition is very similar to that made by spiders, but this is developed in the laboratory.
These headphones are the result of a joint effort between Aivan, the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Aalto Univesity. The prototype was presented at a conference in Helsinki earlier this week.
It is important to emphasize that the current version of this device is in a very early stage, so there are not even any types of integrated electronic components. This means that the equipment is not yet ready to hit the market, but Aivan is focused on continuing the project and making it a commercial device.
The initiative is ambitious and has a very clear intention, which is to stimulate the design of electronic equipment using environmentally friendly materials. At a time when ecology is taking center stage in the media discussion, we are likely to see more and more such proposals, especially in the consumer electronics industry, where many materials are used whose exploitation negatively impacts the environment.