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National Runner Up


Cellsense utilizes algae and regenerated cellulose to develop interactive embellishments that create new possibilities for designers while eliminating microplastics and unethical labor practices.

  • Cellsense bio-embellishments range in size, stiffness, drapability, and color.

  • Video clip illustrating Cellsense's sustainable bead production, dyeing and automation processes

    Video clip illustrating Cellsense's sustainable bead production, dyeing and automation processes

  • Algae-cellulose beads are made bioluminescent through the incorporation of Green Fluorescent Protein

  • Akin to jade in touch, our color chart showcases the range of colors achieved with natural dyes

  • Process images highlighting the clarity and waterproof attributes of our biopolymer embellishments

  • Mold-making: Left shows manual dropper process, right shows automated pipetting in 3D-printed mold.

What it does

Cellsense creates bio embellishments with unique properties such as bioluminescence that create new design possibilities. These replace sources of microplastic pollution in the fashion and cosmetics industries and can be economically scaled for global impact.

Your inspiration

Observing the environmental and human impact of the fast fashion industry in Gujarat, India, we recognized the urgent need for a sustainable alternative. We saw craftspersons suffer from the industry's negligence, their painstaking work discarded after a single use, and their health compromised due to constant exposure to toxic chemicals. Global plastic pollution from discarded microbeads was an additional concern. This inspired us to create Cellsense, a comprehensive solution that reimagines the production, use, and disposal of embellishments, replacing plastics with biodegradable algae-cellulose beads, and reducing reliance on manual labor

How it works

Cellsense embellishments, created from renewable algae-cellulose biopolymers, mimic jade in touch and feel. We use an automated pipetting system to deposit biopolymer solution into divots on a hydrophobic 3D-printed bead loom, swiftly assembling large-scale beaded panels. This system can concurrently process up to six colors to create complex patterns. The biopolymers encapsulate the loom's threads, forming circular beads, avoiding laborious, repetitive threading. Encapsulating green fluorescent protein (GFP) derived from the Aequorea Victoria jellyfish, the beads exhibit bioluminescence. This visual effect fosters a unique bond between consumers and the beads, portraying the beads as living entities rather than disposable commodities. Algae, selected for its rapid growth, antimicrobial, water and heat-resistant, and carbon-sequestering properties, serves as our primary raw material. These beads naturally decompose within 2-4 weeks in a home compost.

Design process

Research: Conducted interviews with Indian karigars, who labor strenuously for up to 17 hours a day, revealing an urgent need for innovation in the embellishment industry. Recognized the environmental footprint of petroleum-derived beads that reside in landfills indefinitely and are difficult to extract due to their size Prototyping: We focused on sustainable algae-derived biopolymers, and conducted over 130 tests to perfect our formula. We faced challenges with inconsistent color retention. Sourced microcrystalline cellulose from textile waste, which enhanced color stability and mechanical strength of the beads due to its excellent binding and crystallinity properties Fabrication: Designed a 3D-printed bead loom and automated pipetting system for efficient production. Initial prototypes were flat until we applied a hydrophobic coating, resulting in rounded beads. Refined process to handle six colors simultaneously for intricate designs. Incorporated GFP for bioluminescence, enhancing properties and adding to customer appeal Testing: Validated biodegradability in different pH environments, confirming beads decompose naturally within 2-4 weeks across conditions. Now exploring bacterial cellulose, for its high purity, crystallinity and mechanical strength, for further enhancements

How it is different

While PLA-based embellishments, the current "biodegradable" alternatives, are costly and require complex composting, our algae-cellulose embellishments naturally decompose within 2-4 weeks. Our cost-effective manufacturing process employs a 3D-printed bead loom and automated pipetting system, minimizing labor, time, and expenses. Cellsense offers high customization, our biopolymer formula is capable of being molded into various shapes, sizes ( between 0.2mm -12mm ), colors, and patterns. Enhancing the aesthetic and user experience are our bioluminescent feature and microbial dyes, which consume up to 430 times less water than synthetic dyes. Another distinctive aspect of Cellsense is our ability to adjust our materials rigidity by manipulating the polymer chain. This flexibility extends our embellishment's applications beyond fashion and jewelry to cosmetics, and even soft furnishings in interior decoration.

Future plans

We've drawn interest from over 12 + fashion and jewelry brands, and our immediate goal is to solidify partnerships and launch collaborative projects within the year. A key objective is scaling to meet this new demand, which will require new equipment and further development of our bead loom to increase throughput and the level of automation. We are also crafting a robust business plan and preparing for a website launch. We'll conduct thorough testing of our material to achieve certifications for biodegradability and safety, thus paving the way for wider cosmetic application.


Cellsense recieved Swarovski Foundations Creatives For Our Future' Award, the Aronson Fellowship from the Tishman Center, the New School Research Award, and the Founder Fellowship from Newlab. Cellsense was showcased at the United Nations Water Conference, and in WGSN's 'The Revolutionary Structures' article

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