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A suit uses human heat to support plastic-eating larvae

A suit uses human heat to support plastic-eating larvae

It’s futuristic, yet functional — a bit creepy and a whole lot innovative. The Inxect Suit addresses two key concerns of the future: food insecurity and the toxic effects of plastic waste. How? With mealworms and a special suit, of course.

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A man wearing an orange suit with a contraption strapped to his chest that contains mealworms inside eating plastic

If we hope to live on Mars or any other planet someday, we’re going to have to embrace some less-than-mainstream techniques for sourcing and consuming food. The Inxect Suit offers one solution by encouraging the population of mealworms, an effective source of high protein. 

Related: Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

An up-close photo of mealworms eating plastic

Even better, the suit provides the perfect environment for mealworms to do their work. In this case, that work is consuming plastic. Confused? Let’s see if we can clear this up. 

A recent research discovery concluded mealworms consume and digest plastic with no ill effect. Great! Put them to work. But wait, there’s more. Humans can feed off of mealworms as the need or desire arises. Even if the mealworms have been ridding the planet of plastic, humans benefit from the larva of the darkling beetle without any toxic side effects when consumed. 

An up-close of the Inxect Suit features a clear window to view the mealworms eating plastic

Simply put, the Inxect Suit adds all these components into one calculation: a space suit. The Inxect Suit is equipped with a central reservoir for holding and feeding mealworms our plastic waste. In order to maintain ideal temperatures for the terrarium, the Inxect Suit captures heat produced by the human in the suit. Once done digesting, the mealworms become food for the astronaut in a process with a minute carbon footprint. 

A sketch of the Inxect Suit from head-to-toe

The symbiotic relationship between a human body and a mealworm colony may not be anything you had planned for your future. However, it does effectively address plastic pollution and the future challenges of sourcing viable protein options. Plus, it’s a waste-free process since mealworm excrement can be used as a fertilizer and discarded exoskeletons are being studied in the production of bio-based plastics.  

Mealworms on a salad

The suit was developed by Architect Pavels Liepins. It was during his master thesis in 2020 to 2021 at the “Architecture and Extreme Environments” program at the Royal Academy, Denmark.

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