Out of Thin Air

Posted on Posted in Articles, Research


“Design similes” emulate biological processes for environmental benefit in the production of everyday goods.

In recent years, the desire to emulate botanical processes for environmental benefit has inspired “design similes,” such as cities that behave like forests, buildings that act as trees, or products that operate like plants. Although such comparisons serve to promote ideal goals, they are difficult to put into actual practice.

Irvine, Calif.-based Newlight Technologies has found a way to achieve the latter objective, with a plastic that is made by mimicking the material production method of plants.

Newlight’s GHG-to-Plastic process isolates, polymerizes, and reassembles carbon and oxygen elements from greenhouse gases into a long-chain thermopolymer—essentially converting gases into solids. The resulting plastic resin, AirCarbon, can be used in lieu of petroleum-based plastics in formats ranging from films to injection-molded components.

Read more of Blaine Brownell’s article “Mimicking Plants to Make Plastic” in Architect magazine.

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