There are a great number of bioluminescent micro-organisms that emit light for different purposes in nature. They form populations that show varied light emission features depending on the conditions they live in and the relationships established between the agents that shape these populations.
This work, I developed by¬†at the GSAPP (Columbia University in New York), explores the forms of swarm intelligence these populations show and their living conditions, to produce devices that emit light without consuming electricity. It analyzes the behavior of glowing micro-organisms populations and the relationships between them, as well as the conditions that make them glow better. To do so, a population of unicellular alga named¬†¬†Pyrocystis Fusiformis is studied under different living conditions and tested inside different shapes.
Pyrocystis Fusiformis is a species of dinoflagellates, which are marine unicellular planktonic organisms. It is a mixotroph, meaning that it conducts both photosynthetic and heterotrophic metabolism.¬†Pyrocystis Fusiformis lives in sea water and¬†produces bioluminescence in a circadian rhythm. It photosynthesizes during the day and produces bioluminescence when mechanically or chemically stimulated at night. It emits blue-green light from microsources found evenly distributed throughout the cytoplasmatic layer surrounding the large central vacuole. ¬†According to the ‚Äúburglar alarm theory‚ÄĚ Pyrocystis Fusiformis emits light to attract attention to its predator. Whenever a predator approaches a population of dinoflagellates, it moves the water exciting them. Hence they glow and the predator is illuminated increasing the chances that it is itself preyed upon.
This project takes advantage of this natural glowing effect to generate lighting devices without consuming electricity. To do so it is necessary to cultivate¬†Pyrocystis Fusiformis. Hence four 50ml bags containing dinoflagellates were ordered along with nutrients and vitamins for them to grow. Artificial salty water was created using distilled water and adding marine salts to it (35gr of salts for every liter of distilled water). Then nutrients, minerals and the dinoflagellates were poured in the water in 1:3 proportion; 10ml of minerals and 10ml of vitamins for 1500ml of dinoflagellates in 500ml of salty water. They were put inside an incubator at 25¬ļC with a timer that controlled a lamp to light them in cycles of 12h on and 12h off.
Then different kinds of geometries were used to host dinoflagellates populations and test their behavior. The first one was a pixel-pocket structure that would allow each pixel to glow independently if they were excited by movement. It was made injecting 10ml of sea water, containing Pyroscystis Fusiformis, in each pixel-pocket. It worked pretty well and each pixel could be excited to glow.¬†Based on this prototype there is the possibility to think about a screen or billboard that emits light and at the same time, displays information like images or text. It can be done controlling the movement of each pixel individually to be on or off. The pixels can be excited by a mechanical device or by sound waves. This sort of geometry can be used for fa√ßades or for commercial purposes.
Designing a prototype that emits light without consuming electricity taking advantage of¬†Pyrocystis Fusiformis glowing properties, means the recognition of a living form of wealth translated into an architectural outcome. Moreover controlling the density of a population of dinoflagellates helps to regulate its¬†quorum sensing mechanisms. That means manipulating the kind of swarm intelligence a population of dinoflagellates shows to improve its glowing properties; and therefore the architectural outcome. Furthermore there is a way to achieve a design that is not only consuming energy to glow but transforming the one that uses into something else besides light.
Following this logic a bar field design containing salty water with populations of¬†Pyrocystis Fusiformis could be design to meet these requirements. This bar field would be moved by the wind. This movement would excite the algae inside the bars and they would glow. At the base of each bar, a device could be placed to use the kinetic energy produced by the movement of the bars for different purposes depending on where the prototype is placed.¬†It could be built in public plazas, rooftops or building fa√ßades. In the two first cases the kinetic energy could be used to warm the ground, for pavement lighting, or to set up an electricity network with plugs that could be used by people. In the third case it could be transformed into electricity to supply the building.
Here you can see a population of Pyrocystis Fusiformis glowing: