Dutch designer creates lamp powered by octopus bacteria

Teresa van Dongen said she was influenced by bioluminescence found in the sea and wanted to harness it to explore new forms of energy

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The Independent Tech

Stunning bioluminescence in the sea influenced a Dutch designer so much that she created a lamp whose light is powered by octopus bacteria.

Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen said she was inspired by micro-organisms in seawater that glow every time a wave provides them with oxygen.

The lamp, called Ambio, “balances two weights and a glass tube half-filled with a ‘Artificial Seawater Medium’ containing a carefully selected type of these unique luminescent species,” Ms van Dongen’s website states.

“Give the lamp a gentle push every so often and the weights will keep it moving and thus glowing.”

She said that Ambio is harnessing the energy potential of the natural world – but told The Independent that unfortunately it’s not yet for sale as it’s still in the development stage. She has finalised one - her graduate project - and is the process of making two more which will go into galleries.

Ms van Dongen, who previously studied biology which "remains an inspiration to her work", said that she had to provide the bacteria with optimised, man-made conditions that emulated seawater.

“The bacteria inside the tube only has enough food for about two days until they need to be replaced,” she said, adding that she is now working alongside two academics to try and prolong the lifespan of the bacteria.

“In theory the population could last much longer but just not inside the tube,” she said.

One push of her lamp and the waves move for 20 minutes, keeping the organisms alight - while there is an entrance in the tube to allow for a steady stream of oxygen without letting in pathogens.

The bacteria were extracted, with the help of two TU Delft students, from the skin of octopuses.

“For a while now I have been doing research into new forms of light and energy. My goal is to create a living lamp for the home,” she told Dezeen.

“Our aim is to create an installation where new medium with nutrients – liquid food – is constantly added to the fluid with bacteria while the abundant amount of fluid is constantly drained, without using electricity. In this way we can theoretically keep the population alive for an eternity.”

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