LICHEN AND AIR POLLUTION
Lichens are one the most important organisms on Earth which have the properties of bio-indicators and bio-accumulators. They are a symbiotic association between two or more organisms, in particular between a fungus and green algae and/or cyanobacteria. Thanks to their morphological and physiological peculiarities, lichens can survive in extreme environments but, at the same time, are incredibly sensitive and responsive to environmental changes. In nature they can provide valuable information about environmental quality, also due to their ability to trap atmospheric pollutants. As lichens, also our body absorbs pollution from the air, including PM10 and heavy metals, but we only realize it when their harmful effects on our health become visible.
With a speculative approach the aim of the project is to design a material that can replicate the properties of bio-indicator and bio-accumulator of lichens to communicate in a physical form the issue of air pollution. The aim is to rethink about our behavior in confront of the issue of air pollution and how lichens could play an important role to create a new relation with our body.
Can we use synthetic lichen on our body? LichenAir is synthetic lichen which is created thanks to a biomimetic approach. It is a tool/system divided in two parts: the fungus structure works as a filter and protector of the second part, the photobiotic elements that create energy and recycle air. LichenAir could be used on our body as indicator of the pollution that we absorb during our life and for its property of accumulator we can track and analyze the amount of pollution that we had received in a particular period. Changing the “fungus” part of the lichen allows us to create a library of the pollution on our body and create a relation between us and the synthetic lichen, which represents the issue of air pollution. The data extracted from it could be used to develop medical researches about the effects of air pollution on our health and as big data for a communication system to recreate a symbolic lichen of a city, company, etc.
This is a material that mimics the properties of lichen and represents in a tangible way the quality of our air and can create a new sensibility in human, not only as a personal sensibility but a social sensibility creating a new “social need”: the pure lichen, which is symbol of clean air. My intention was to rethink about the relation between human and nature in an Anthropocentric epoch and how this relation could help us see the “invisible” air pollution that every day is absorbed by our body.
The relation between us and the synthetic lichen is created in 2 steps:
First following the instruction of the LichenAir Kit you can create your personal lichen which is based on the morphology of your face, it can be customized and 3D printed.
Second it became part of you because you bring it on your body everyday, as a second skin. Changing the fungus part every year allow you to create a physical library of your "polluted body". A map colour help you understand how much your lichen is polluted.
Data extracted from your synthetic lichen could be used in medical environment and as big data to recreate the symbolic Lichen of Cities or Companies, thanks to this approach it could be used as a powerful tool of communication, which reflect the quality of an area/city/building and it could challenge the behavior of politicians, companies and our society.
The aim is to create questions about the relation of our body and air pollution because today we live more in a virtual world than a physical world but we need to remember that, for now, we live in a physical body. Through this research is possible to think about a future scenario and at the same time reflect on our role on Earth as society of today.