2023.03.03 Kia

Kia: Innovation Inspired By Nature

Nature is the source of the greatest innovations and must be protected. Kia tries to protect nature by utilizing innovations inspired by it.

“Nature provides answers to many problems.” says Arthur Huang, structural engineer, architect, and National Geographic explorer. Likewise, Kia uses inspiration from nature in various areas such as design, technology, and sustainability. For Kia, nature is the greatest source of innovation and must be protected. That’s why Kia travels with Arthur Huang, sharing opinions on innovative technologies and ideas inspired by nature. Here’s a story Kia shared with Arthur Huang.

Nature is full of wonders. Even a small mushroom can reveal a clue to innovation. What if you could make solid bricks and car seats out of mushrooms? To do this, you first need to know the structure of a mushroom. Mushrooms consist of a fruit body and mycelium. The fruit body is the head and body of the mushroom we eat, and mycelium is the root beneath the mushroom. In other words, compared to common plants, fruit bodies can be referred to as flowers or fruits, and mycelium can be compared to roots, stems, and leaves that make and absorb nutrients.

Mycelium secretes breakdown products to consume nutrients. This material breaks down a variety of pollutants - plastics, Styrofoam, petroleum, dyes, pesticides and more. In addition, growing mycelium can be used to make materials of various shapes. For example, spreading mycelium in a square waste produces square structures; This is because mycelium grows while decomposing the existing product and fills the internal space.

Also, depending on the processing method, mycelium has several uses: leather alternatives made by Kia using mycelium, for example. It can express various textures and can be dyed, so it can be used all over the room. Leather alternatives, in particular, are ideal for long-lasting car seats thanks to their high tensile strength.

Leather alternatives using mycelium made by Kia are eco-friendly both in manufacturing and disposal. Compared to genuine leather upholstery, they use much less water in the manufacturing process and are biodegradable when disposed of. It is also easy to control the character. Stronger mycelium is made by using materials that are difficult for mycelium to digest, such as potato skins or wood.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also very interested in mycelium, to use them to rebuild facilities after natural disasters such as hurricanes. In such large-scale construction, it is inefficient to procure necessary materials from outside. In this case, mycelium used in construction sites saves time and money because it can make materials by itself. In addition, mycelium can create self-recoverable buildings.

As such, there are various ways to use mycelium. This is why Kia is experimenting with the possibility of mycelium. In particular, this allows us to escape from the vicious circle of repeating production and disposal. Being able to effectively recycle existing materials has a positive impact on human sustainability.

Kia draws its sustainability inspiration from the sea as well. The ocean is a huge ecosystem in which life cycles. Life born in the sea dies in the sea, but it becomes another source of energy for other creatures. It’s a huge circulation system where nothing is wasted. However, human-made waste such as plastic is polluting the ocean. Because plastic does not break down chemically, it breaks down into tiny fragments that float in the ocean and become microplastics.

Fortunately, many countries around the world have strengthened their recycling programs, raising awareness about waste. But there is still a long way to go. Most plastics are still not recycled and end up in landfills or incinerators. Many countries still send hazardous waste such as plastic to other countries. Because this transport process releases carbon, it has a greater impact on the environment than recycling on site.

Noting this, Arthur Huang uses plastics retrieved from the sea as part of construction, or crushes and processes them to use them as building materials. This is a very important activity for mankind, because the modification of existing materials can purify the marine environment and minimize the environmental impact.

Kia, too, is aware of the seriousness of the marine plastic problem and is working to create a sustainable future by reducing the negative impact on the marine ecosystem. The company has partnered with The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit that cleans up plastic and debris in oceans and rivers. Kia sponsors Ocean Cleanup’s purification project, and plans to recycle the collected plastic and utilize it for their products.

The automaker isn’t just talking about recycling. For example, Kia’s dedicated electric vehicle, the EV6, is actively using waste plastic recycled materials. The yarn made by crushing and processing plastic bottles was used for door pockets, crash pad decorations, and auxiliary mats. In addition, the headlining (finishing material for the ceiling) of the new Niro is made by mixing 56% of recycled PET in non-woven fabric, and the cargo screen is also made by mixing 70% of recycled PET in knit material.

Nature contains many possibilities. Many innovations are still hidden in nature, undiscovered. Exploring and protecting nature will help us. Other sustainable innovations await us; This is why we should pay attention to Kia’s journey of introducing new innovations inspired by nature.

HMG Journal Operation Team


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