Second Nature by CHEMARTS

CHEMARTS showcases nature-inspired material projects by students and alumni in this Cooler Planet exhibition.
Coral installation by Megan McGlynn
Coral installation by Megan McGlynn.

Nature consumes only what it provides, producing no waste. It is functional, systematic, resource efficient, and even the tiniest members have an important role in the ecosystem. Nature is under continuous evolvement, full of unexpected events, surprises – and beauty. There is so much we can learn from nature, and so many ideas and findings to research and share to enhance a more sustainable way of living. This year, CHEMARTS showcases some nature-inspired materials projects by students and alumni.

CHEMARTS is the long-term collaboration project between two Aalto University schools, initiated in 2011. The School of Chemical Engineering (CHEM) and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (ARTS) combined forces with the aim of researching bio-based materials in an innovative way and creating new concepts for their advanced use. The core values are the sustainable use of natural resources, experimental working methods, and the respectful cross-pollination of design and materials research. 

Over 600 students have taken part in the CHEMARTS courses. Tiny seeds of inspiration have grown into a versatile and international community of materials enthusiasts.

Learn more about CHEMARTS

Lignin project by Pia Johansson
Natural dye made of lignin. Photo: Esa Kapila

Exhibited Projects

Lignin as colorant - designing textiles with limited color palette 

Lignin is one of the three main components of wood. Could the deep brown color of lignin be used in textile industry in the future? In this project design student Pia Johansson is exploring how the limited color palette based on lignin and some other natural dyes can be used to create woven and printed textiles. The project is also part of the Biocolour research project.

Soap project by Sonja Dallyn & Anastasiya Yurievna Grachova
Printed soap layer on textile hygiene wipes. Photo: Esa Kapila

Get dirty with soap!

The project by Sonja Dallyn and Anastasiya Yurievna Grachova explores the idea of printing a colored soap layer directly onto textile hygiene wipes, creating a smooth hand washing experience. The pine soap printing mixture was enhanced with a natural dye made from spruce bark extract known for its antibacterial properties. The soap colour gradually fades as the wipe foams, thus encouraging the user to wash their hands for a longer time. The project is part of a study project with Suominen.

Intension by Megan McGlynn
Astoning experiments with nanocellulose. Design and photo: Megan McGlynn

Intension – exploring materials and shapes

Not all material experimentations lead to success, but each one tells part of the design story. In her artistic research project Megan McGlynn explores nanocellulose made of wood pulp. Nanocellulose is very difficult to control during the drying process, and much of the work during this project has been focused on controlling the materials and making reproducible shapes. This installation celebrates the fact that each item dries in its own unique way. The variation in size, shape, and curvature is reminiscent of the diversity of natural forms.

Project team

  • Pirjo Kääriäinen, Associate professor, Design and Materialities
  • Janika Lehtonen, University teacher
  • Tapani Vuorinen, Professor, Wood Chemistry
  • Students assistants Iines Jakovlev, Sonja Dallyn and Aarni Tujula
Irene Purasachit

Irene Purasachit saw the floral industry’s waste problem firsthand – now she makes material for handbags from discarded blooms

Nearly half of cut flowers end up in the trash, never making their way to dinner tables or first dates

Shimmering Wood-based Structural Colour by Noora Yau. Photo Eeva Suorlahti

Aalto University presents six concepts on renewable biomaterials at Dutch Design Week

CHEMARTS exhibition showcases fascinating recyclable prototypes which are toxic-free, recyclable and don't release micro-plastics.

An image with different kinds of biochemical compounds printed on paper, colorful

CHEMARTS – New dimensions for the forest

CHEMARTS arranges multidisciplinary study courses and a Summer School for degree students, thesis projects, and workshops for elementary and high school students. It also participates in externally funded research projects.

School of Chemical Engineering
CHEMARTS Cookbook for material enthusiasts. Photo: Eeva Suorlahti

The CHEMARTS Cookbook

Inspiration for Material Enthusiasts

Life 1.5 in black font and Designs for a Cooler Planet logo on a white, fragmented background.

Life 1.5 – an exhibition of planet-friendly materials, fashion and food

Designs for a Cooler Planet is a five-week-long festival celebrating experiments in planet-friendly materials, fashion, and food.

Black font stating "What's the future made of?" and Designs for a Cooler Planet logo on a white, fragmented background.

What's the future made of?

Planet-friendly alternatives for materials, mindsets and architecture.

  • Published:
  • Updated: