I have a new obsession — microbial cellulose. I have been meaning to experiment with this stuff ever since I read Fermented Frocks, the New Couture. Recently, my sister’s room-mate was discarding a kombucha culture, long past its prime, and I knew I had to have it — despite the fact that was about the closest thing to two gallons of pure biohazard that I have ever laid eyes on. I peeled a few layers from the decrepit SCOBY that was floating in the middle of the rancid kombucha, and dried them into tough, leathery, translucent “paper” (see the photo with the “paper” covering a CD for perspective). After that, I was hooked — smell be damned — and after some research, I was really hooked.
This past winter, I spent a month in Guatemala studying Spanish, checking out appropriate technology projects, and zipping around the geologically manic country around the Western Highlands. Here’s a reportback from a visit to the offices of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG). I got to check out some prototype wind and solar designs and take a peek at their new kit-built CNC machine and custom circuit board designs. Later, I got to poke around the office and come along on a site visit to a biodigestor installation they did outside of the city. It lets the farmers nearby turn animal waste into organic fertilizer and cooking gas while reducing greenhouse emissions. I got to hear about the combination of technical and user friendliness challenges they encountered and saw how the system is working now that it’s been tweaked a few times. Pretty cool stuff.