A Dutch designer has created a lamp that needs no electricity: it consists of a glass tube filled with bioluminescent bacteria taken from octopuses and suspended in a saltwater solution. All it needs in order to light up is a gentle tap every so often to keep it swaying. It’s not uncommon for designers to be inspired by the beauty of nature, but Ambio takes it a bit further. In a complete marriage of design and biology, Teresa van Dongen developed her glowing lamp as her graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven.
It’s not just meant to look pretty, though. The designer intends the piece to demonstrate how to use nature as a source of energy. Living bioluminescent bacteria, along with food, are placed in an artificial “seawater” inside the lamp. Oxygen causes the bacteria to glow a brilliant blue, just as in the ocean, so the lamp is designed to swing from side to side while suspended. This gentle movement creates the “wave action” necessary to expose the bacteria to oxygen.
Because the bioluminescence occurs naturally, no additional electricity is needed to power the lamp. Scientists and designers are looking to bacteria like this, found in jellyfish, plankton, and other small sea creatures, as a possible alternative energy source. It’s uncertain what the lifespan of such a light fixture will be, but van Dongan’s website explains that the students who helped isolate the bacteria are also working on determining how to help it live longer in its artificial environment.
Images via Teresa van Dongan.