Mussel shell


Made in

Animal material 61 Circular 215 Composite 97 Alginate 9 Mussel 3

Mussel shell

Photos: Antonia Valencia, Omar Faúndez, Carolina Pacheco


Calcáreo studies the possibility of designing new manufacturing processes in design based on the bio-reference of calcareous organisms of the marine ecosystem. The project questions and proposes a new way of relating to and understanding matter based on less disruptive dynamics that foster a link with understanding natural systems.

Through the research and development of calcareous materialities, it seeks to involve people in a more active way in the reformulation of perceptions that we have with objects that surround us and their production cycles. This is why the processes and recipes developed are open source and free access, to remove the barriers of entry to material experimentation.

The research understands the role of calcium carbonate biomineralisation of some living organisms and the natural abundance of this biomass in the marine ecosystem.

In its first version, it promotes the use of a waste of great abundance in Chile’s mussel farming industry, where tons of mussel shells are generated and ends up in landfills. Biobased Calcáreo arises from the experimentation and optimisation of a biocomposite between milled mussel shells and an alginate solution, a polysaccharide derived from brown algae. With an appearance and properties similar to that of a ceramic material, its uses could be applied to a temporary or symbolic object, when submerged in water, it dissolves, reincorporating into the ecosystem.

Additional information

Calcáreo for moulds:

Step one
1. Wash the mussel shells to remove the remaining waste and dry them.

2. Place the shells inside a cloth bag and smash them with a hammer.

3. Sift shells with a 5mm sieve to control the maximum size of shell particles.

4. Use a blender to grind the particles until they become powder.

5. Once again, use a 1mm strainer to control the particles of the mussel powder.

Step two
Mix the alginate powder with the water to make a 2.5% alginate solution. Stir to dissolve and leave hydrating for at least 24 hours.

Step three
Mix 450 ml of the ground mussel shells with 150 ml of the alginate solution.

Step four
Pour the mixture into a mould and place it in a dehydrator at a minimum temperature (30°C). After a few hours, you can remove it from the mould and continue the dehydration process.

Step five
When you're done with the object you've made, it can be submerged in water and it will progressively disintegrate. The calcareous solution can then be used in plants to reduce the pH in soils.

Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.


Mussel (mytilus chilensis), alginate solution


Laboratorio de Biomateriales de Valdivia, Laboratorio de Biofabricación UC, Escuela de Diseño UC, Alejandro Durán, Antonia Valencia