Davidson University Sophomore Lorena James came up with a unique solution for invasive mussel species in Lake Eerie – Use them to create environmentally friendly 3D printing filament.
The Quagga mussel is a form of “invasive species” that managed to hitch a ride on colonial ships all the way from Europe to North America. Invasive species are known for their disruptive impact on local eco-systems. Since European settlers accidentally introduced a large number of them to the food chain several problems have began to occur including a drop in the algae population as well as more practical issues like attaching to marine propellers.
“When zebra and quagga mussels are living, they can clog water intake pipes. They stick on the side of rocks, docks, boats. And they pose an issue once they wash up on shores, creating a barrier of still water that’s gross. There’s a lot of bacteria that can collect in water. The way the shells are made, they’re really, really small and can hold little bits of water in them.”
Lorena James won the Cleveland water alliance eerie hack competition high school prize for 1000$. The main premise of the competition was to help solve environmental challenges by coming up with a unique business solution.
Her 3D printing filament combines polyactic acid with biodegradeable plastic pellets and ground up mussel shells together and ejects them from a filament extruder. James purchased everything she needed to create the filament from Filabot – a 3d printing company focused on reusing materials.
Once her patent is accepted and she has returned to Davidson University from studying abroad Lorena James may ask Filabot to mass produce her filament. “Also, it’s a possibility that I’ll change gears and try other entrepreneurial ideas. I’m still interested in circular economy, in finding uses for invasive species.”
Photo: ALBERTA ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT / CALGARY HERALD ARCHIVES