While gaining his Masters in Product Design from the RCA, Erik de Laurens was seeking to create a new, sustainable material. This led him (like fellow French industrial designer Violaine Buet) to the ocean. Laurens "identified fish scales as a promising raw material," reads a page on his company's website. "They are a waste of the fishing industry, available in large quantities and little valued."
Laurens learned that fish scales contain a naturally-occuring polymer, and figured out a process of extracting it, then mixing it with the mineral elements found in the same scales. The resultant powder can then be compressed into sheets or tiles, which have a stone-like quality.
Laurens calls the material Scalite, in a nod to Bakelite and other early plastics. Now graduated, he runs a company of the same name, selling the material in tile form for interior applications.
Scalite is 100% bio-based, with no chemicals required in its production, and it's made from a waste product that no one wants. It's got great environmental credentials, and it's pretty easy on the eyes as well.