Anaerobically Fuelled, Bio-printed Cars

"For Rousseau, to go back to nature, was to restore to man the forces of a natural order, placing him outside of the shackles of civilisation. This idea made Rousseau a particularly important figure in Romanticism. This was the starting point for me thinking about what nature actually is, how it has been impacted throughout the course of human development, and how nature might be in the future.

Our daily lives are filled with the benefits of technological innovation – advanced transportation, electricity devices, or 3D printing. However, many of these are detrimental to the environment, and the situation gets worse as we rely on these products more and more. Technology is also seen as a way to deal with environmental issues, but to the extent where we are replacing nature, rather than working with it. What if we could use potential technologies, not to bypass nature, but to bring us closer to nature?

The MA Design Interactions at the RCA is about critically assessing the impact of emerging technologies and science on society. 3D bioprinting was the advancing technology that I chose to explore and base my project on. Bio-printing is arguably the most disruptive application of 3D printing in the medical world, producing human organs for transplant or for body on a chip use. The technology involves the creation of replacement tissues and organs that are printed layer-by-layer into a three-dimensional structure.

At the same time, I was thinking of the contribution of cattle livestock and cars to the production of greenhouse gases and climate change. The world consumes 77m+ barrels, literally hundreds of billions of litres of oil every day – 54 per cent of which is used in transport. Cattle are at the heart of a livestock sector that is a significant contributor to serious environmental problems, with emissions at every scale from local to global, including land use and feed production to manure management. Yet the cow’s digestive system is a remarkable feat of nature – an anaerobic powerhouse. What if this organ was replicated in a bio-print, and fashioned into a self-powering vehicle for transport? Could the cow’s digestive system be a vehicle that strikes a balance with nature?

The idea for Digestive Car is to reflect the circularity of nature. Imagine driving a car that you need to feed grass. In this way, taking care of the car is more akin to taking care of a pet. Of course, Digestive Car is a speculative project, relying on great imagination. My aim is not to offer a solution, but to raise awareness of the interconnectedness and extent of global warming, greenhouse gases, and climate change caused by the human activities of raising livestock and having fossil fuel powered transport."