The Bio-Integrated Design Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture has created a modular system of tiles inlaid with algae that can filter toxic chemical dyes and heavy metals out of water. Called Indus, the tiles are on display in the UK for the first time during the London Design Festival.
These pieces mimic the structure of leaves and their ability to distribute water evenly to every part of a plant. The ravines are then filled with micro-algae which are suspended within the “biological scaffold” of a seaweed-derived hydrogel. It trickles through the tile channels and is collected at the bottom. As it flows over the channels, the water is subject to a process called bioremediation, in which microorganisms are used to consume and break down pollutants in the environment. The compounds remove these particles from the water and deposit them within the cell of the algae, where they are stored. Finally, once they are saturated, the algae can be replaced with a fresh batch.
Each Indus tile is made by pressing clay into fan-shaped moulds with a series of “vein-like channels” and can be continually reused and re-filled. Each modular tile unit is attached to the next through half-lap joints, and so can be individually removed without taking apart the entire system. This is crucial, as it allows for easy maintenance and adaptation to the constraints of the local built environment.