UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Indus - Algal Bioremediation Project Nominated for Designs of the Year 2020

28 October 2020

Indus by Bio-Integrated Design (Bio-ID) Lab, has been nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year and will be on display at the Design Museum, London. The project lead, Shneel Malik, is a PhD student based at the Bartlett School of Architecture and UCL Biochemical Engineering.

Bezley Design award nomination logo

The Indus project is a tile-based, modular bioreactor wall system for cleaning wastewater through bioremediation. It is designed to enable the rural artisan communities to regenerate water for reuse within their manufacturing processes. Inspired from the architecture of a leaf, water flows over a series of vein-like channels algorithmically generated to optimize heavy metal uptake. Water is guided over microalgal cells immobilized within a seaweed-based hydrogel. Pollutants such as cadmium can be sequestered by the algae, and the hydrogel can then be processed to recover heavy metals safely. The interdisciplinary team behind Indus merges computational design tools with biotechnology, advanced fabrication and traditional materials. The project lead of Indus, Shneel Malik, is a PhD student jointly supervised by Prof Marcos Cruz (Bartlett) and Dr Brenda Parker (Biochemical Engineering) as part of the Bio-ID lab.

The project is based on research into algal bioremediation of pollutants that is being conducted at the Dept of Biochemical Engineering by Dr Brenda Parker. The team had been researching immobilisation of algae in hydrogels for wastewater treatment as part of an EPSRC-funded Global Challenges Research Fund project. As part of the project, the team were interested in how design tools could help facilitate the implementation of bioremediation. Following a set of visits to artisan manufacturing sites in India in 2017, Shneel developed the idea of creating a scaffold-based system that combined laboratory research with vernacular materials. The project won the Water Futures Design Challenge in New York in 2019, and a prototype was exhibited as part of London Design Festival the same year.

Indus 2.0, a new iteration of the venation patterns for the tile design, were developed exclusively for the exhibit. Beazley Designs of the Year is now open at the Design Museum in London.

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Design Museum Exhibition

On November 5th and 6th, the Bio-Integrated Design Lab and Central St Martin’s are jointly organising a 2-day online conference on designing with living systems at the Design Museum where the processes behind projects such as Indus will be discussed in more detail.


    • Team –  Shneel Malik, Dr Brenda Parker, Prof. Marcos Cruz
    • Bio-Integrated Design Lab, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
    • Fabrication support / Ceramicist Richard Miller, Froyle Tiles, UK

    With the support of

    • Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Activate Fund, UK 2020; 
    • UCL Innovation & Enterprise, launch competition UK 2019; 
    • BBSRC NiBB Algae UK, 2019
    • A/D/O Water Futures Design Challenge 2019
    • EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund, UK 2017. 
    • NGO Support from Pure Earth, India & Centre for Environment Education, India.    

    About the Beazley Designs of the Year, 2020

    Experience the best moments in design from January 2019 to the moment global attention shifted in late January 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Discover futuristic technology for health and sanitisation, explore projects tackling inequality and racism and dive into questions around water and food security including mainstream veganism.