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Shneel Malik (Materials Innovation, 2021)Hierarchical construction of biomembranes

Shneel Malik

Finalist in 2021 for Materials Innovation

Architect and Bio designer Shneel Malik works at the intersection of design, biology, engineering and material sciences in the development of large-scale photosynthetic systems of living membranes for use within Architecture. As part of her research, she has developed Indus – a tiled wall designed to clean polluted water using the natural processes of micro-organisms, specifically microalgae; where it uses the passive ability of microalgae to absorb heavy metal present in the wastewater onto the surface of their cells. Impacted by the amount of water pollution generated by the millions of small-scale artisans/textile workers in India, Shneel developed Indus to empower small scale artisan workers in underdeveloped and developing countries to treat the contaminated wastewater for reuse within their manufacturing processes. At present, these industries release the contaminated water untreated into the environment, and WHO estimate up to 80% of the surface and ground waters are in turn polluted.

In gaining understanding of the composition, structure and processing of complex biological tissues and systems, Malik is able to explore large-scale 3D Printing and Robotic fabrication of these novel living materials. This research aims to create self-sustaining biological scaffolds for architecture, with a range of energy-based uses such as the removal of pollutants from the environment, and the generation of energy through processes of photosynthesis.

Malik is currently a Teaching Fellow & a PhD Candidate at the Bio-Integrated Design (Bio-ID) Lab based at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She is also a social entrepreneur, where she actively works to make, biological designs such as Indus readily available to the millions across the globe, amalgamating her passion towards a living architecture, climate change, water and human empowerment.