“Ooho!” the ‘edible water pods’ are the brain child of ‘Skipping Rocks Lab’ located in the United Kingdom. To reduce pollution caused by single-use plastic packings, the creators covered the manufacturing process under a Creative Commons License, making the recipe freely distributed and readily available for the world. These containers made from natural seaweed can also be used for storing fruit juice, flavored water, cosmetic products, medicines, or any other liquid solution that is packed in single use plastic container.
Richard Gomes a biohacking alumnus from the Manipal Institute of Technology assisted by K Nithya a Biotechnology student; conducted a series of experiments at the Workbench Projects, a Bengaluru based start-up, to make these ‘water blobs’ using lab-grade seaweed extract. Later, they started using edible, tasteless, and odorless seaweed comprising of alginate hydrogen, after refining the materials completely.
- A solution of water and calcium salt is frozen to ice cubes in an ice-tray.
- These cubes are dipped into alginate hydrogel solution, which is a seaweed extract. These ice cubes are stirred into the solution for about three minutes, till they are completely coated with the viscous liquid. This process is called cooking and is one of many techniques that fall under reverse spherification.
- The cooking process continues till a membrane is formed, the ice melts to liquid and air bubbles start emerging. Here the blobs acquire a spherical shape.
- These spherical balls are then transferred to a bowl of clean water where the extra gel is washed off. This takes 15-30 seconds.
The water-blobs are ready for consumption. The outer membrane is edible, so it can be either consumed or spitted. These water blobs are the size of Paani-puris. They can be refrigerated and stored for a week.
Richard plans to ideate a machine to manufacture these water blobs, with an efficiency of 10 pods per hour. Manually, a person can prepare 10-20 blobs a day. He aims to manufacture multi-purpose storage pods in different sizes.
Advantages of these water blobs are many. Besides of being cost effective and eco-friendly, these water blobs are also highly nutritious because the seaweeds that are both tasty and healthy. Seaweeds are a rich in protein, carbohydrates, minerals, polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins A, B, C and E.
Disadvantage of the water-blobs is; these water blobs are made from seaweeds so they are easily biodegradable. If refrigerated they can be stored for a week, otherwise at room temperature, they can only last for three days
Richard Gomes, with a Goal to achieve Sustainable Development says; “Biohacking is essentially about utilizing natural elements and creatures for creating innovations that help in sustainable development. So, water pods made from seaweeds were right up my alley. I was surprised with the fact that such a simple phenomenon was never tried earlier in India.”
He added; “It is certainly great for marathons where runners cannot have more than a sip of water at one time. But we want to take it further to curb the use of single-use plastic. For example, using these pods to store fruit juice samples, hence replacing single-use plastic cups. Or for packing right amount of medicine for the patients who are sensitive to over/underdose.”
“The price of a single pod is dependent on the volume of liquid filled in it, because size of the membrane must be equivalent to the volume of liquid filled in the bubble. At present, the price of our product is 2₹ per 100ml. However, if manufactured in bulk quantity, the price can reduce to ≤1₹ per 100ml,”– he concluded.
Environmental Pollution caused by single-use plastic is turning to a menace. Single-use plastics are non-biodegradable and it is proving to be a major hazard to our oceans. These tiny Environment Saviors are a step towards Sustainable Development.
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