LAUNCH Closing the Loop

Javier Fernandez: Shrilk


Shrilk is a material based on the chemistry and molecular design of the insect cuticle.

Imagine a material that can be used to manufacture objects without the environmental threat posed by conventional synthetic plastics?


Plastic production has increased from 0.5 to 380 million tons per year since 1950. Most of the plastic produced, in most cases by polymerization of monomers derived from a nonrenewable source, is used to make disposable items or other short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture. These objects account for approximately 30 percent of the waste we generate, which accumulates in landfills or contaminates large areas of marine habitats – from remote shorelines and heavily populated coastlines to areas of the deep sea.


Shrilk is a biodegradable alternative to plastic. It is a material based on the chemistry and molecular design of the insect cuticle. It is made of silk proteins and waste material from the fishing industry (i.e. chitin). The novelty of Shrilk, based on the association of natural components with their molecular design in natural structures, has started a whole new approach to sustainable and bio-inspired materials.


Shrilk is a compostable and biocompatible material that, inspired by the insect cuticle, provides an alternative to plastic. It has the potential to change the way we produce and manufacture short-lived products. The vision of Shrilk is to fundamentally change the current design of materials, incorporating biological concepts and components at the molecular scale. The main component in Shrilk is chitosan, a form of chitin, the second most abundant organic compound on earth. It can be found in everything from crustacean shells to insect cuticles and butterfly wings. This feature allows a vision of future materials being produced and used in the local surroundings and thereby mitigating the pollution issues of transport and logistics we face today.

“This is the second chance for natural materials.”

– Harvard Gazette News, 2012.