Invasive mussel species found in the USA’S Great Lakes transformed into blue glass

Detroit-based design students have come up with a way to repurpose invasive species of mussels that have been disrupting the USA’s Great Lakes ecological system, and transform them into glass.

Students from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan took two invasive species of mussels – zebra and quagga mussels – to create a region specific soda lime glass.

Zebra and quagga mussels, which were introduced to the USA from Russia and Ukraine respectively, were first introduced in the USA’s Great Lakes in the late 1980s. Research has found that zebra and quagga mussels are displacing less efficient native species, by killing them or outcompeting them for food. In some areas, native freshwater mussels have been completely wiped out.

The project – led by three students Emily Marquette, Mahsa Banadaki and Wei Huang – seeks to transform these species from an ecological threat to an over-abundant regional resource that can be harvested and used for artisanal and industrial glass and ceramic applications.

By breaking the mussels down into a powder, the team were able to place the powder into a mould and place it in a super hot kiln to bake. The blue colour from the resulting icy-blue glass comes from the high copper content of Lake Michigan.

The team behind Zebra Glass were recently awarded first prize at this year’s Biodesign Challenge (BDC), an international education programme and competition that partners students with biologists, artists, and designers to envision, create, and critique emerging biotechnology.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living.

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