A broad selection of products and materials for the most cutting-edge surfaces innovations.

1. Eggshells

The idea of walking on eggshells could soon have a much more positive vibe, as ethical design brand Nature Squared has perfected a low-energy method of turning food industry waste into beautiful floor and wall tiles. Its CArrelé wall and floor tiles are made from a composite of crushed eggshells, cured at room temperature to form an ecofriendly tile that actually absorbs carbon dioxide. CArrelé comes in a variety of square, rectangular and triangular shapes and in three colour families.

2. Wool

Long used for textiles and insulation, wool now has a new role as a solid surface material thanks to Solidwool. The company has developed the material as a sustainable alternative to structural reinforced plastics and composites. The wool is taken from Herdwick sheep, the iconic hill-farm breed of the British Lake District, which have wiry, dark fleeces that are one of the lowest value wools in the UK.

3. Coffee

Biohm has found a use for waste caused by coffee production with its collection of 100% natural lampshades. They are made from organic refuse biocompound, a new material that combines waste food and agricultural byproducts with a unique plant-based binder to create a material that can be formed into sheets or threedimensional forms, and at the end of its life can be cold-composted.

4. Salt

Design company PriestmanGoode challenged students from the MA Textiles course at the Royal College of Art to create sustainable new materials that are better for our health. The winning submission from Lily McDonnell used rust, seaweed and salt as a means of introducing oxygen-rich salt therapy into commercial spaces by interlacing salt into woven textiles. McDonnell has now won a paid internship, giving her an opportunity to create her material.

5. Graphene

It’s been a buzz word for a long time, but graphene-based products are finally making headway outside of the laboratory. The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at The University of Manchester, in association with Nationwide Engineering, has started to do real-world projects with grapheneinfused Concretene. It may look like ordinary concrete, but the mix contains graphene which strengthens the material without the need for steel reinforcement.

6. Sawdust

Image Credit: AUDI AGImage Credit: AUDI AG

The raw material for the elegant hexagonal tiles covering the new Audi car dealership in Trudering, Germany, started as sawdust and chippings from local forestry operations. German start-up Made of Air puts the waste through a multi-stage process that ultimately creates a solid surface material that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. First, the biomass is heated to high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment, converting it to elemental carbon called biochar which locks in the CO2 that the trees sequestered from the atmosphere. The second step processes the biochar and combines it with sustainable biopolymers to create pellets that can be used in construction.

7. Orange peel

The cleverly named APeel uses a patent-pending new process to transform waste citrus peel from the drinks industry into a versatile new material. The new material, exhibited at Material Matters, has been developed by Alkesh Parmar, a tutor at the Royal College of Art as well as a designer maker running Studio ARP. As well as orange peel, Parmar has also created exciting lighting designs by reusing Indian terracotta chai cups and champagne corks.

8. Copper

Newly developed in the US, paint infused with copper offers an easy-to-apply surface treatment that kills viruses and bacteria on contact for five years. PPG’s new Copper Armor paint contains Corning Guardiant, a biocide made from copper glass ceramic particles that is mould-resistant as well as offering peace of mind against flu, Covid, MRSA and E-Coli, among other nasties. The paint is ideal for schools, nursing homes and healthcare settings.

9. Microbes

Sensicrete Self-healing is the UK’s first commercial bio-based selfhealing concrete. The concrete contains limestone-producing microbes, which can sense cracks and repair them. When moisture enters a crack, it activates the bacteria, which produce limestone, filling the crack and sealing the damaged area. Tests show that selfhealing concrete can extend the lifespan of a concrete structure by up to 30% as well as reducing maintenance by 30-40%.

10. Olivine

PhD students at Imperial College London, Sam Draper and Barney Shanks, have just won €100,000 in the OBEL Award for international architectural achievement to develop a zero-carbon version of concrete. Their technology, called Seratech, captures industrial CO2 emissions directly from flues and produces a carbon negative cement replacement material, a silica called olivine. When used in combination with Portland cement, the carbon capture associated with producing the silica means the concrete products can be zero-carbon. The raw materials for Seratech – waste CO2 and mineral olivine – are naturally abundant all over the globe and the technology could be easily implemented in any cement plant.

11. Roots

Recently seen at London’s Material Matters exhibition, Zena Holloway of Rootfull creates filigree textiles from simple grass roots, shaping an everyday and totally sustainable natural material into art and fashion. Winner of the Green Concept Fashion Award 2022, her root grown textiles also hold exciting possibilities for interior design, with a range of lamps and shades already in production and with more on the way.

12. Fungus

Fungus is not something you usually want to see in a building, but Biohm believes that mycelium can create a healthier and more sustainable built environment. The material is grown on a substrate of waste from other industries, including timber, plastic, agricultural waste, cardboard and hemp, and the first major use will be as insulation panels. Mycelium sheet has an acoustic absorption of at least 75% at 1,000Hz compared with 40% for mineral wool. It’s as durable as conventional panels, but at the end of its lifespan it can be cold composted. The material has negligible VOCs, is breathable and wicks moisture and Biohm’s manufacturing process is carbonnegative, sequestering at least 16 tonnes of carbon a month.

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