2017~19 / Environmental Robotics


Symbiotic Machines for Space Exploration


Humans are now drivers of environmental change on a scale that is unique in Earth’s history. Anthropocentric landscapes are characterised by reduced biodiversity and deteriorated ecosystems. In the meantime preparations are being made for lunar and Martian habitats, requiring a tremendous advancement in the methods and instrumentation of ecosynthesis. How will scientists and engineers working with artists and designers accomplish this pivotal endeavour? The urge to explore essentially uninhabitable environments is an important stimulus towards a metabolic approach in design and materials science. Symbiotic Machines for Space Exploration (SyMSE) is a project that aims to create an autonomous system for enhancing terrestrial ecosystems and facilitating atmospheric formation on other planets through artificial photosynthesis. This research led to 3 artworks: e-SEED, BacterBrain and C-DER

In August 2016 the project Symbiotic Machines for Space Exploration (SyMSE) was selected by NWO- Research Through Design Award. For the development of this interdisciplinary project key institutions are the collaborators: Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam, Willem de Kooning Academy, CEFET-RJ, European Space Agency, FLiNT, CNRS and Synergetica. In its first physical space, inside the Byofisica Dept. at the VU Amsterdam, the Hybrid Forms Lab is a horizontal research platform with a collaborative effort of scientists and artists/designers to explore environmental science, automation, living systems and biophysics. These disciplines are incorporated in the curricula of the students from the collaborative institutions.


 collaborative institutions & timeline

VU Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
WDKA Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam
ESA European Space Agency
Synergetica Lab Amsterdam
CEFET Federal Center for Technological Education Rio de Janeiro
LadHyX Ecole Polytechnique Paris


photosynthesis, terraforming, climate change, space flight, robotics, biosolar cells, citizen science, circular economy, sustainability


3 may – 7 june 2017 VU open course Hybrid Forms   images
31 may 2017 VU Sugar&Salt biodesign workshop   images
11 may 2017 Het Nieuwe Instituut Mars Night   info
26 apr – 10 may 2017 Synergetica residency at LadHyX
13 feb 2017 ESTEC biomaterials workshop   info   images
14 dec 2016 WDKA partner meeting
21 sep 2016 ESTEC partner meeting   notes
jul 2016 project starts

simulation of SyMSE swarm photosynthesising on Mars landscape

This project was made possible by: STW funds