How can a material tell a story? How can we explore the dialogue between material, people, and the environment?
Born out of curiosities into cultural stories of soy, two designers from two parts of the world – Japan and Brazil and met halfway in Finland – collaborated to explore its material potential.
As a major by-product within the soy industry, 20 million tons of soy hulls are generated per year globally, either becoming waste or being used as cattle feed. Through intensive laboratory experimentation and research, the designers were able to achieve versatile properties through various treatment methods, such as the creation of sheets, panels, and grinding into microscale to create a paste that becomes a strong binding agent when dried. To illustrate the diverse material properties, they have developed a prototype of children’s footwear that is lightweight, durable, and flexible.
The history of soy has always been intrinsically intertwined with cultural history. What does the future of soy look like? Exploring soy hulls as a biomaterial is a push towards a future global story of soy in the age of sustainability.
The making process had begun with a hands-on experimental approach in the laboratory, in which the soy hulls were treated in diverse ways – boiling to soften the fibres, grinding to various coarseness, creating pastes, sheet-drying, and casting. By approaching this initial stage with an open mind, the designers were able to freely experiment with the soy hulls, while discovering the qualities, strengths and weaknesses as a potential material.
Simultaneously, secondary research was conducted, especially to consider the chemical compositions of the hulls. Studying it against similar biomaterials enabled the broadening of knowledge about the available treatment methods for cellulose-based materials.
These initial experiments and research provided an overview of the multifaceted properties that the material could achieve, from which the idea of footwear was born. With this concept in mind, the treatment methods and compositions were tested systematically to optimise the desired properties. Already having a rough estimate of compositions and methods from previous samples, the ingredients were meticulously balanced and narrowed down to the precise recipe that is used in the prototype.
The final footwear design is the result of countless experiments, learnings and discussions in the laboratory, resulting in a prototype that showcases the versatility of soy hulls as a future material.
Soy hulls provided by Nordic Soya Oy
Text submitted by the maker
Soy hulls, cellulose
Ena Naito, Esa Kapila, Netsanet Legesse