Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash
Photo by Javier G Fernandez on twitter

Javier G. Fernandez


The Fermart Lab




The Fermart Lab




The Fermart Lab






What makes Javier G. Fernandez a Global Shaker?

According to Javier Fernandez, every age in human history is characterised by certain materials. This century has been dominated by plastic, with production of the material increasing from 0.5 to 380 million tonnes a year since 1950 — most of which is used to make disposable or short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture.

What’s coming in this century, he adds, are bio-materials.

“When plastic came into the world, it was a revolution in society and in how we behave. The production and consumption rates that we have these days are the product of the change that plastic made into society,” Fernandez said in a video on “And we’re aiming for exactly the same – we’re bringing a completely new set of materials into society and we expect society to change with these materials.

“What we are trying to do is a closed cycle in regions. So if your region has an abundant natural material and particular characteristics, instead of bringing materials from outside we’d use those materials in the way that nature used them.

The scientist has made a biodegradable plastic alternative material based on the “chemistry and molecular design” of the insect cuticle. ‘Shrilk’ is made from silk proteins and “waste material from the fishing industry”, such as a glucose from exoskeletons that the company says is the “second most abundant organic compound on earth”.

The idea was to manufacture objects “without the environmental threat posed by conventional synthetic plastics”.

Fernandez has been Assistant Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) since 2015, where he is head of the Fermart lab for Bioinspired and Integrative Science. While there, the academic created FLAM (Fungal-like Additive Material), a completely organic and biodegradable material to 3D print a wind turbine blade. This too was made by mixing plant cellulose with certain fungal materials and, again, with chitin.

“We have demonstrated that FLAM can be 3D printed or casted, as well as manufactured using common regular woodworking techniques (e.g. sawing, drilling, polishing…), and, what is more interesting, combinations of them,” Fernandez told

He has set up a company, Chitonous, to further the development of these manufacturing innovations.

Previous to this, he spent just under five years as a research fellow at Harvard University, which he combined with a role as an associate researcher at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and just under a year as a research fellow at MIT.

Tags: biodegradable, bioengineering, biomaterials, bioplastic, plastic, plastic pollution, plastic solutions

Last updated: July 24, 2019