Octopus bacteria lights up this installation (Wired UK)

Ambio, bacterial lamp by Teresa van DongenTeresa van Dongen

A designer has harvested bacteria from
an octopus to create a bioluminescent
installation that lights up when it is moved.

Amsterdam designer Teresa
van Dongen
has harnessed the chemical reactions that cause the
natural phenomenon, common to types of fish, jellyfish and bacteria, to create the effect
indoors. Luciferin and either the enzyme luciferase or photoprotein
are needed to spark that reaction, which causes light to be
emitted. It is a sight to behold at night, when these orbs (in the
case of jellyfish) or flecks of light (in the case of plankton) are
illuminated in water.

Van Dongen opted to use photobacterium extracted from octopus by two life science and technology
students at TU Delft for her piece, the aptly named
Ambio. This particular type of bacteria needs oxygen to
produce an exceptionally bright blue-green light. The bacteria
would usually be found in the gut of the octopus, and can be used
for a number of purposes: communication, camouflage, mating.

The light will not last long without an injection of oxygen, so
to keep her installation interesting van Dongen placed her
“artificial seawater medium” — liquid treated to carry the
bacteria — in a tube, but only filled it halfway. Two weights are
used to hang the tube, and everytime one is knocked or pushed it
will keep the vial in motion, knocking the air bubbles around to
replenish the reactions.

It’s a beautifully simple result, which the designer describes
as being a “visualisation of a research on how to use nature as a
source of energy”.

Getting this into homes one day, would be rather a different
matter. The oxygen in the tube will run out, and the tube would
need to be topped up with a fresh batch of living microorganisms.
The TU Delft students are, however, currently working on ways to
extend their lifespans. The bacteria is linked with some serious
pathogens, but since they thrive at cooler temperatures well below
human body temperature, it should be safe. Convincing regulators of
that one day, in some distant future where plankton and octopus
light up our homes, sounds like rather a big barrier to overcome

Nevertheless, the idea is not so fanciful. Synthetic biologist
Omri Amirav-Drory is already working to modify the DNA sequence of the Arabidopis plant to contain
, the enzyme behind bioluminescence in many

Hat-tip: Dezeen

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26 September 2014 | 3:50 pm – Source: wired.co.uk


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