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Wood Alternative Sustainably Made From Kombucha Waste Wins 2021 Dyson Award


Pyrus, 2021 Dyson Awards

This year’s American James Dyson award winner Gabe Tavas tackles deforestation with his invention, Pyrus. Their mission is simple: make wood without cutting down trees.

By balancing nature and design, Gabe found a way to use bacterial cellulose, the main component of wood, to form an alternative material that mimics the exotic woods found in the Amazon rainforest.

Gabe claims that his ambition to create global change stems from what he calls the “influence of immigrants.”

Her mother, now an immigration attorney, moved to the United States from Cuba when she was little and her father from the Philippines at age 17.

“I started considering entrepreneurship as a teenager and felt the urgency to solve global sustainability issues,” says Gabe. Born and raised in Chicago, Gabe longed to spend more time in nature and found his escape at Saint Paul Woods in Morton Grove, IL.

“Growing up in the city, you don’t have many expressions of nature that can be stressful. Forests provide an escape. It’s my favorite place to meditate, and the idea of ​​losing that because we were too young hurts from a visceral point of view. “

Each piece of wood has two essential ingredients: cellulose, which provides its basic shape and structure, and lignin, which acts as a glue for all other components. Some kombucha companies use microorganisms that produce coherent sheets of cellulose on top of the liquid.

To make Pyrus, these cellulose sheets are mixed to a uniform consistency and then embedded in a gel. As the gel dries, it hardens and is placed under a mechanical press to form a flat sheet of wood-like material. This material can then be sanded, cut, and coated with resins just like its tree-based counterparts.

While there are several companies that create alternative materials to wood, many use sawdust. Sawdust use still involves cutting down trees and damaging the natural ecosystem, but it also poses serious health risks for those who are overexposed to it.

Sawdust is an irritant that can affect your eyes, nose and throat, and in prolonged exposures it can even causes cancer.

PLUS: College students invent a device that slows down microplastics emitted by tires and won a Dyson award

With Pyrus, not a single tree is cut down and no dangerous oils are used. Pyrus uses kombucha waste, which is both environmentally friendly and sustainably created, to create a pulp that makes wood sustainably. Pyrus’ ultimate goal is to replace the expensive and sophisticated wood products that are currently major drivers of deforestation.

Over the past year, Gabe produced 74 Pyrus wood samples in a variety of colors and textures. Pyrus has been tested on various equipment commonly found in woodworking shops and fabrication spaces, all with the guidance and consistently positive feedback from professional carpenters. Maintaining the versatility of wood, Pyrus can be turned into jewelry, guitar picks, and coasters.

Winning the national stage of the James Dyson Award will inject $ 2,600 into Gabe’s project. It plans to use the prize money to expand its production facilities and develop 3D printing processes. Ultimately, Gabe wants Pyrus to grow into various green products that meet consumer needs and are commercially viable.

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Sam Sheffer, a three-time James Dyson Award judge and technology influencer, had this to say about the award and this year’s winner:

“I have judged the JDA for several years and I am always captivated by the inventions these young engineers present. The 2021 entries were some of the most competitive I’ve seen. Pyrus stood out because he is solving a problem that we can all relate to with the waste of a product that most of us consume every day. I’m excited to see all the innovative ways that Pyrus will evolve under Gabe’s imaginative and talented leadership. “

Pyrus will advance to the international stage of the James Dyson Award. The international shortlist will be announced on October 13 and international winners on November 17.

(LOOK the video about this innovation below).

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