Bacterbrain

2017~19 / interspecimen communication

Bacterbrain

The project BacterBrain looks at the automation of robotic structures with power provided by the metabolism of photosynthetic bacteria. This piece explores the change of robotic paradigms when a non-human living organism – the photosynthetic bacteria – finds new ways of connection and control of the kinetic structure, questioning the mental model of how robots operate. How would a robotic structure behave, sense and plan with a “brain” controlled by bacteria? The kinetic structure, a tensegrity model, changes autonomously with the electrical variation of the metabolisms of the Rodobacter Spheroids. This colony create a photosynthetic-microbial- fuel-cell that generates power for the tensegrity model to move. Through the electrical variation that occurs, it triggers the movement of the structure.  The design of the tensegrity model is powered and controlled by the Rodobacter Spheroids in combination with potassium permanganate. The potassium permanganate takes the electrons from the metabolism of the Rodobacter Spheroids. Three sets of gallons containing these 2 elements (the photosynthetic bacteria Rodobacter Spheroids and potassium permanganate) work as a photosynthetic-microbial-fuel-cell. The energy provided will activate motors in the structure that will generate movement. According to the electrical variations from the bacteria’s metabolism which are being analysed, it will trigger the movement of the shifting weights inside the structure. The research and elaboration of the project opened opportunities for integration of students of science and art/design to do their internship and MA graduation. The photosynthetic-microbial-fuel-cell from Bacterbrain  created a co-research between the biophysics dept. from VU Amsterdam and CMET-Gent University developed at Hybrid Forms Lab. 

images from top to bottom: Bacterbrain explanation graph and pictures of the installation at Bozar, Brussels/BE. 2019.

Bacterbrain was made in collaboration with scientists Raoul Frese, Sandrine D’Haene, Granit Domgjoni – Biophysics department from VU Amsterdam; scientists Korneel Rabaey, Amanda Luther and Jan Arends from UGhent – CMET, hardware software designer Andjela Tomic, assistants Emiel Giliamse and Sjoerd Legue.

Bacterbrain had the support from Mondriaan Fonds, NWO Creative Industrie, VU Amsterdam and Flemish Ministry of Culture, co-produced by GLUON.