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A water bottle you can eat

Posting in Technology
 
Ooho.jpg
 
Bottled water is an awful idea. The plastic takes a thousand years to degrade, it costs more per liter than gasoline, and their precious contents are easily available (and practically free) in many places. There are exceptions, of course. In the U.S., we use 50 billion plastic bottles a year. Environment-minded people have devised all sorts of alternatives to get consumers to use fewer disposable plastic bottles: from biodegradable packaging to artfully designed water fountains. Here’s another idea: Just eat it

Ooho is an edible water bottle inspired by how droplets form. It’s flexible and has the texture of jelly, it's easy to bite into and apparently tasteless (though the consistency may take some getting used to). This watertight container was developed by Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier, and Guillaume Couche from the Innovation Design Engineering program through the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Here’s their simple, two-step process, Smithsonian reports:

  1. Dip a frozen ball of water into a calcium chloride solution, which forms a gelatinous layer on the outside of the liquid. 
  2. Then soak the ball in another solution made from brown algae extract, which encapsulates the ice in a second membrane. This reinforces the structure and thickens the mold. 

Manipulating the water as a solid during encapsulation keeps the algae and the calcium in the membrane and out of the water. The resulting double gelatinous membrane is about as strong as the skin on fruit -- though the whole thing is actually more like an egg yolk. You can even put a label between the two layers without using adhesives, and it protects the inside hygienically.

This process, called spherification, is a culinary trick pioneered in 1946. It’s used to fashion fake caviar and create the tapioca balls used in boba (or “bubble”) tea drinks. A single water ball costs just two cents to make. 

The trio found Skipping Rocks Lab and has already gone through thousands of prototypes. Last summer, a few versions hit the streets of Spain in a local TV program. "Not all of the reactions were positive," González says. "Some people say that [the bottles] are like breast implants or jellyfish."

With future versions, they’ll also need to find a way to keep the bottles intact and sanitary during transport. When it’s ready, the team will make the instructions open to everyone, so you’ll be able to bottle your own water some day. 

Ooho was one of 12 Lexus Design Award winners, and it was on display during Milan Design Week.  

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[Via Businessweek, Smithsonian]

Images: Ooho via designboom

— By on April 30, 2014, 9:26 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure