Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Could Sugar-Embedded Products Help Us Survive in a World Ravaged by Drought?

Climate impacts already cost billions in economic damage each year. Global drought losses are expected to surpass $8 billion in 2015 alone. A 2010 study by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) predicted that extreme drought will threaten large parts of the U.S., Central and South America, and Southern Europe by the 2030s.

As part of her final project for her Master of Arts at Central Saint Martins in London, designer Jamie Tai explored a range of sugar-based products as survival tools in response to the threat of drought. Tai’s project, Trehalose Artefacts, includes a range of conceptual products that would use trehalose, a natural sugar that protects cells from dehydration by trapping moisture.

Tai developed clothing and skincare products out of a curiosity for ways that humans could adapt to new environments as climate change progresses. She partnered with the UCL Centre for Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine to test the viability of trehalose-based products, including a micro-encapsulated shirt and tights, as well as skincare solutions where different concentrations of trehalose cater to different user needs. The products are intended to be used along with e-tattoos which track hydration levels and inform users they may need to reapply.

“The TretSk1n line was a result of scientific experimentation and iterative prototyping,” she recently told PSFK. “We found that there were optimal concentrations of trehalose required for different environments and that [synthetic materials], like nanocomposite POSS-PCU, could be used as a means of delivery to the skin.”

Tai also created TretSk1n Stories: Surviving Drought in 2050, a short film to contextualize the use of the products:

Other recent innovations from design students around the world include a “Fruitleather” textile and upholstery alternative from Willem de Kooning Academie in The Netherlands, and a more recyclable milk carton, Re-Pack Milk, from the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

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