Turning fruit and vegetable waste into natural pigments

Graduate of Imperial College London Nicole Stjernsward has invented Kaiku, a system that turns plants into powdered paint pigments using vaporisation technology. In fact, it turns fruit and vegetable waste into natural pigments. Avocados, pomegranates, beetroots, lemons and onions are just some of the fruits and vegetables that can be placed into Kaiku and turned into the raw material for paints, inks and dyes.

Stjernsward designed Kaiku to offer a natural alternative to using artificial pigments that can often be toxic.

Skins and peels are boiled in water to produce a dye, which is transferred to a reservoir in the Kaiku system. Along with hot, pressurised air this dye is forced through an atomising nozzle into a glass vacuum cleaner. The fine mist produced is hot enough that it vaporises almost instantly, and the dry particles are pulled through the chamber and into the collection reservoir.

"By transitioning to natural based pigments, it will be easier for us to recycle products and make them more circular," Stjernsward told Dezeen.

"Since many synthetic pigments today are toxic or made of ambiguous materials, colour is typically considered a 'contamination' in the Circular Economy principles," she added. "I hope to change this paradigm."

Stjernsward began her project by interviewing artists and meeting with David Peggie, a chemist who works at London's National Gallery, to better understand the paint pigments used by both the old masters of art history and contemporary painters.

Originally pigments were derived from nature, such as blues from lapis lazuli stones, yellows from ochre clay and reds from the crushed up wings of beetles. Vegetables such as onions were traditionally used to dye fabrics.


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