The headphones are gorgeous. The headband glows in a Dieter Rams white. Chestnut-colored leather cups your ears. It’s hard to believe that I’m looking at something that’s been produced by yeast, fungus, and bacteria, rather than metal, plastic, and animal skin. Korvaa is the world’s first microbe-grown set of headphones, a conceptual prototype produced through a collaboration between the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, Aalto University, and the Finnish design firm Aivan . [Photo: courtesy Korvaa] The project began when documentarian Nina Pulkkis was working on an educational film about synthetic biology. “[I was] frustrated with the lack of interesting concrete examples of how the research could be applied in different materials,” says Pulkkis. “So, to push matters forward, I connected the designers with the scientists at VTT and Aalto University to see if we could make something for real.” Certainly, headphones have a certain natural, consumer appeal. They’re also a superb test case for new materials in industrial design, since headphones require a mix of soft and hard components working in concert, on a form that has several moving parts and conforms to the head. [Photo: courtesy Korvaa] Researchers brought all sorts of wild materials to the […]

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