One chilly day in March, Rachel Rusk, Emary Parisi, Sydney Sieh-Takata, and I received the initial idea for the Algae Matron 3000 during a tour at DSM Nutritional Products in Columbia, Maryland hosted by J. Casey Lippmeier, a DSM principal scientist. Lippmeier introduced us to Galdieria sulphuraria (G. sulphuraria), an algae strain that produces a blue pigment and posesses bioremediative properties.

As Lippmeier described the process of utilizing this pigment as a food dye, we stopped and wondered: Could G. sulphuraria's pigment be used to dye fabric?

Illustration of the process of extracting phycocyanin from 

G. sulphuraria

Image of pigment extracted from the algae Galdieria sulphuraria

Detail shot of dye tests performed with extracted phycocyanin on various fibers

After our experience producing G. sulphuraria pigment and testing the dye on different materials, we wanted to design a bioremediative dye factory based on this process.

However, Margaret McDonald, a MICA professor and chemist for the Army, encouraged us to be more creative with our newfound knowledge of the dye.

What's special about G. sulphuraria's pigment is that it is UV-sensitive. Exposure to the sun bleaches the color the pigment produces. What if we used this bleaching effect to our advantage instead of treating it as a point of failure? What would happen if we constructed a system that could wash consumer's faded clothes, re-dye the clothes, and recycle the water used in the process of doing so?

This is how the Algae-Matron 3000 was born.

Digital rendering of the Algae-Matron 3000

The Algae-Matron 3000 is a washing machine that dyes clothing with ephemeral pigments derived from the algae Galdieria sulphuraria (G. sulphuraria). The machine is connected to a centralized water treatment system that utilizes the bioremediative properties of the organism to purify and recycle the consumed water. 

Video that explains the user's experience with the Algae Matron 3000 and how it works 

Visual diagram of the Algae-Matron Home Water Recycling System

Visit our site to learn even more about the Algae-Matron 3000 and its consumer experience! 

Visual diagram of the dye's life cycle

The Algae-Matron 3000  represented MICA at the 2017 Biodesign Challenge, hosted at the Museum of Modern Art and the School of Visual Arts(SVA). The following images are taken from the SVA exhibition The Future Will Be Grown: Student Projects from the Biodesign Challenge that occurred June 22-26 2017. 

Overall shot of work installed in exhibition space

Image of person interacting with the work

Image displaying a phycocyanin dyed garment, our dye tests on five different materials, our website, and examples of color variation created through combining materials of different fiber structures

Example of a packaged shirt one would purchase  at a local Algae Matron kiosk

Collaboration among Erin Kirchner, Emary Parisi, Rachel Rusk, & Sydney Sieh-Takata

Scientific Consultation courtesy of J. Casey Lippmeier

Illustrations and Logos courtesy of Iris Lee

Website design courtesy of  Hanna-Mae Greenfield

Photo Documentation on Website courtesy of Alex Papalitskas

Video documentation and editing courtesy of Scott Will and Danielle Spellman

Packaging Design Courtesy of Nilam Sari

Assistance with Project Construction courtesy of Bokeum Jeon

Opportunity to create this work courtesy of Ryan Hoover, BUGSS, and the 

Biodesign Challenge

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