Edible water balls



A few months ago during a meeting with Conor Buckley we were talking again about bio plastics, their applications and how we might use this material in a different way to make an artwork.

At the moment because of the make up of the bio plastic and the fact that it creates a shiny surface when dry it can not be layered on top of itself, the layers stay separate.


We talked about how he and TCD students are working with spray painting guns to spray the materials they are working with over the surface of the medical device or scaffold depending on what they are trying to achieve. He suggested that I take a look at this methodology in the development of the artworks for the 2019 exhibition. We have yet to fix on a date to start this process but I look forward to trying it out even if I will be unable to use it in this exhibition….food for thought for future projects and exhibitions.

As our project had also moved its focus to water another really interesting suggestion Conor made during this meeting was that I check out a newish phenomenon – edible water balls.

water balls

We had some interesting thoughts on how we might make some of these water balls and embed some of the plant material from the fallen Oregon Maples inside. I compiled many tests with the different forms of algae that I had been using to create the bio plastic. I crushed up calcium tablets to use in these tests….none were successful. Finally I had to turn back to Conor to see if he could source the correct alginate material for me. As always Conor came up trumps. I will post some of the image from these tests at a later stage.  Again I hope that I will get some interesting test results ready for the upcoming exhibition….

A water ball is a biodegradable and natural membrane which can be fully swallowed and digested, as well as hydrating people in the same way as drinking water. The product is made from a seaweed extract and is tasteless, although flavours can be added to it


To follow for your information is a brief explanation of edible water balls are and an interesting article written by A. Naresh Kumar and published online on a website entitled Science India.  http://scienceindia.in/home/view_article/328

“Water is one of the precious compounds on Earth. Availability of pure drinking water for human consumption is inevitable. Currently, major fraction of drinking water is supplied though various non-biodegradable packaged materials. However, use of non-biodegradable plastics for packaging is resulting in generating of huge quantities of waste. Alternatively, biodegradable (eco friendly) water packing materials can be considered as a solution.

Edible water balls, which are eco-friendly, can replace these millions of plastic bottles. These biodegradable water balls are composed of algae (sea weed) and are edible materials. The preparation of edible water balls is very easy, and can be prepared at home. The preparation involves mixing of sodium alginate and calcium lactate with drinking water. This forms a gelatinous membrane structure and retains the drinking water in the middle of a gelatinous structure. Sodium alginate (NaAlg) coagulates when exposed to calcium chloride (CaCl2) and forms calcium alginate (CaAlg2 ) and sodium chloride (NaCl), according to the following reaction Eq.(1). The prepared calcium alginate ball with water is considered as a refreshing edible water drink and does not require a separate vessel like a bottle or a cup to hold water.

2NaAlg + CaCl2 –> CaAlg2 + 2NaCl… Eq.1

Alginates are natural products of brown algae, and have been widely used in wound dressing, drug delivery, food applications etc. In addition, calcium is a necessary element for regular functions of human body as it also helps in bone formation and maintenance. Moreover, biocompatibility of alginate gels have been studied extensively and their safety for consumption is well established. As natural polysaccharides resistant to breakdown by human digestive enzymes, alginates are classified as dietary fiber.

Currently, the edible water container is not available commercially, although the developers are working to bring it to market. The prototypes have been tested in several markets and certain limitations are associated to reach the market. Majorly, thin membrane is not strong enough to withstand shipping and handling on a large scale. This product is named “Ooho” the edible bottle, by the Skipping Rocks Lab, a startup based in London. Water drinks on the go is the major advantage of these edible balls. In addition, these water balls are ecofriendly and serve as an alternative to plastic bottles. Drinking water from inside a soft edible membrane made from natural seaweed extract is considered as a sustainable product in the long run.”

Author:A.Naresh Kumar, CSIR-Senior Research Fellow, CEEFF, CSIR-IICT.