Bigger isn’t always better
Humans have relied on microbes for millennia. Yeast brews our beer and raises our bread. Bacteria in our guts keep us healthy. Microscopic phytoplankton in the ocean produce half of the world’s oxygen.
Thanks to genetic engineering, technology, and good old evolution, humans are about to enter into a new phase of our ancient partnership. We may soon create bacteria that eat plastic, emit light, and even tell us whether or not we’re healthy. When it comes to microbes, big things come from small packages.
FluDOC – Glowing Bacteria show if you have Influenza
Bacteria are traditionally perceived as infectious and unhealthy, but that is about to change. This week designer Jan van der Asdonk graduated from the Next Nature Lab at the TU/e Industrial Design Masters with a …
Bacteria that turn CO2 into energy
We’ve written earlier about man–made bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol. How about a genetically modified bacteria that can eat CO2 and excrete methane that could power our cars and homes? Abundant carbon dioxide, …
The Pigeon that Shat the Golden Soap
Ever wished you could take a shower with pigeon poop? Artist Tuur van Balen proposes changing pigeons from flying rats to cleaning agents. A speculative, specially engineered bacteria, as harmless to pigeons as Lactobacillus is …
Voyage of the Bacteria Bots
The 1966 science-fiction movie Fantastic Voyage famously imagined using a tiny ship to combat disease inside the body. With the advent of nanotechnology, researchers are inching closer to creating something almost as fantastic. A microscopic …
Bugs that turn whole plants into sugar
Remember the bacteria that eat waste and shit petrol? How about some microbes that eat plant waste and turn it in to sugar? Now you might say you have no need for sugar as you …
In 2009, undergraduates at the University of Cambridge worked with scientists and artists to engineer E. coli into E. chromi, a new type of bacteria that secretes a range of colorful pigments.
There is a domain of creatures that diffusively encircles an entire planet. There are so many of them that they occupy every conceivable ecological niche. Yet, despite their countless numbers they are so in tune with their local ecology that they have become an intrinsic part of it. Those that live in rural locations greatly outnumber those that inhabit strange cites, which are gregarious, smart and even have their own personalities.
An alien naturalist might consider humans as little more than smart city housing for bacterial colonies.
— Rachel Armstrong
Energy problem? Why not genetically alter bacteria to have them provide ‘renewable petroleum’. Crude oil is only a few molecular stages removed from the acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result. Will we soon be driving on bacteria shit?
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
We normally think of polluted water as the source of disease, not the cure for it. The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, affectionately known as the Super Fun Superfund, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. Most of the water is too low in oxygen to support plant or animal life. Worse still is the toxic mud at the bottom of the canal, rich in lead, dioxins, and mercury from decades of unchecked dumping from heavy industry.
The canal might run with poison, but it hasn’t stopped enterprising New Yorkers, human and microbe alike, from making a living at the location.
The world is alight with algae fever.
In this age of deep ecological design aspirations, the range of speculative design projects based on algae technology is growing. Algae are imagined to provide a whole range of solutions, from energy-producing architectural towers, to lights, burgers, skin care products, animal feed, drug factories and bioplastics. It finally appears that the world is turning green. Literally.
Algae, simple photosynthetic plants that live in water, are among some of the oldest living organisms on earth. Most species can only be seen with a microscope, but others can form dense mats of vegetation or large underwater forests. During the Archean period, between 3.9 and 3.5 billion years ago, blue-green algae* set the preconditions for modern life by changing the earth’s atmosphere, which was choked with poisonous gases, and turning it into an oxygen-rich environment. Their modern-day descendants can use a range of pigments to harvest specific wavelengths of light to form solid plant matter, or ‘biomass’, by using sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce fuel, water and oxygen.
Indeed, the ability of algae to fix carbon is such that they’ve become the technology of choice for carbon capture. We already know that they can make a large-scale impact. In fact, algae are so relentless, work so quickly and on such a scale that up until this moment in time they’ve been regarded in an extremely negative manner. Algae have been called by many names, most of them not at all complementary: Weeds, blight, bloom, deadly foam and literally, the scum of the earth. Despite their current reprieve as a possible solution to escalating carbon dioxide levels, there are still more products on …
The Eco Pod is a experimental design proposal towards the production of clean and renewable energy, which should operate in old, abandoned buildings. Pending an eventual recovery, these buildings become vertical bioreactor that supports micro-algae which produce energy for the city.
The idea comes from the American studios Höweler + Yoon Architecture and Squared Design Lab. It was created to stimulate the economy and ecology of the city of Boston. This way, structures, ruins of abandoned buildings are turned into high-impact capsules coated with multiple ground source of bio-fuels. In this case the micro-algae is 30 times more efficient per acre than traditional.
Researchers have designed bacteria that can produce a special glue to knit together cracks in concrete structures.
Technews Daily reports the genetically modified microbes have been engineered to swim down fine cracks in concrete and once at the bottom produce a mixture of calcium carbonate and a bacterial glue. The building is “knitted” back together as the glue combines with the filamentous bacterial cells and hardens to the same strength as the surrounding concrete.
The bacterium tweaked by the …
Computer versus bacteria
Are bacteria faster than a computer? According a group of biological engineers they are. The scientists have done a research in which they have used the well-known bacteria Escherichia coli to solve a mathematical problem.
City Planning with Bright Bacteria
Renegade architect and futurist Rachel Armstrong has proposed that our cities, currently constructed of dead trees, baked mud, and refined ore, need to be coated in a layer of glowing, hungry bio-goo. Bioluminescent bacteria could be …
Computer versus Bacteria: Round Two
Last year, scientists managed to use the bacteria Escherichia coli to solve a mathematical problem, described in this research. This year, the building blocks of a computer are made.
Researchers at the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s …