The sculptures Oxman’s team produced are effectively a proof-of-concept of a grander vision of melanin as a material that could actually be integrated into buildings. By using a technique in which melanin would be produced with the assistance of bacteria like E. coli, and integrating that melanin into the building’s facade, Oxman speculates that buildings will one day have a sort of skin, that might be able to tan in the presence of UV rays, protecting its outer shell much like melanin protects humans from the sun. Such melanin-infused buildings would protect their inhabitants from the elements, too–imagine a greenhouse that could attenuate the light to the particular species of plants living inside. Oxman even imagines melanin could help generate energy, or absorb unwanted environmental metals.
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