Bioplastics with Conor Buckley; an Introduction

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On embarking on the 2018 Trinity Trees project I knew I wanted to explore in detail more about bioplastics.  I was and still am really interested to see if a specific version can be used successfully as an art material in the upcoming 2018 Trinity College Trees Exhibition. Having spent a few frustrating weeks compiling lots of samples and not quite understanding what and how much of each ingredient to add into the mix I decide to enlist the help of Conor Buckley of TCD. Conor very kindly agreed to guide me in the development of a bioplastic material for the 2018 Exhibition.

Prof. Conor Buckley

During May 2018 we met in the biochemistry lab in the Parsons building as it had all the equipment we would need to experiment and make the bioplastic material. On this first day on our journey of bioplastic experimentation Conor and I talked a lot about these exciting materials called bioplastics.

Bioplastic is a layman’s’ term for using natural materials to make plastic. Bioplastics can be starch, algae or gelatin based to name the most common forms. In science terms the final bioplastic material is called a hydrogel.

Conor’s told me a little about his area of expertise, which is in making hydrogels into specific shapes and then implanting cells into these shape. The cells grow in this medium and form a matrix within the shape creating new living tissue. This is commonly know as cell tissue engineering.

Conor is not new to working with artists on unusual projects. He was involved in the Science Gallery’s exhibition called Victimless Leather in 2008 and 2011. Victimless Leather created by artist Oran Catts was a prototype of a stitch-less jacket, grown from cell cultures into a layer of tissue supported by a coat shaped polymer layer.  See image below.  

In the next blog on Bioplastics I will outline some of the tests Conor and I undertook in May 2018.

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