This course focuses on thoughtfully and critically embedding computational media into the physical world. We will make, tinker, and experiment with high tech and low tech materials. The final projects will be themed around biolectronic interfaces, and the winning team will present their work at the Biodesign Challenge. This course is taught by Stacey Kuznetsov, assistant professor at the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering. The TA is Piyum Fernando.

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BioDesign Challenge

Last week the students of ASU Digital Culture and The Design School have presented their LIFE/LIGHT project at the Biogesign Challenge summit in MOMA, New York. The project was developed at AME 410 Interactive Materials course and finalized for the competition.

The summit happened for the third time, engaging enthusiasts that combine design with biotechnology. It is one of the largest biodesign events in the US and brings the attention of the growing community of designers and researchers.

Around twenty teams have participated in the Challenge this year from various schools and countries. The 1st prize was taken by the team from Central Saint Martins, UK, that have presented the concept of Quantumworm Mines. The runners-up were the students of  University of Edinburgh, UK with the research project “UKEW 2029” that showed parallels between biology and socio-political trends.

 

ASU project researched the potential of bioluminescent unicellular organisms and scrutinized the issue of co-habitat and control in a man-made environment. LIFE/LIGHT is an algae-driven living building system that produces fuel and light if properly taken care of.

We were designing in the middle-ground between an artifact, living nature, and humanity where the behavior of each component of the system influences its performance. (See figure 1.)

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Figure 1. Concept diagram.

Choosing our components within the broad fields of nature and artifacts, we decided to look into the relationships between dinoflagellate, a capricious algae creature that illuminates ocean in a number of coastal cities, including San Diego, and architecture as a medium for most of the human activities.

LIVING ARCHITECTURE

With the increasing concerns about ecology, the notion of living architecture arises. In the age of Anthropocene, living buildings adapt to the constant flux of technological, social and environmental conditions through integration with living nature.

The best example of such thing, probably, would be the rice paddles in South Vietnam (image 1), a sustainable artifact of agriculture and built environment that existed for centuries.

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Image 1. Rice paddles in South Vietnam, stock photo.

Among other inspirational examples are the Algae-fueled building in Hamburg designed by ARUP (image 2), the proposal by Mitchell Joachim for homes grown like plants (image 3), and the interactive installation by David Benjamin that visualized ecological conditions for the citizens of Seoul (image 4).

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Image 2. BIQ algae-powered building in Hamburg, image courtesy of ARUP.

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Image 3. FabTreeHub, image courtesy of Mitchell Joachim.

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Image 4. Living Light, Seoul, image courtesy of David Benjamin and The Living New York.

DINOFLAGELLATE

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Image 5. Bioluminescent dinoflagellate, stock photo.

Dinoflagellates are unicellular algae plankton chosen for the LIFE/LIGHT project due to the its qualities:

Bioluminescence

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Image 5. Bioluminescent jellyfish, stock photo.

Bioluminescence is the ability of living organisms to produce light. The “cold light” produced by dinoflagellate is done without wasting energy compared to conventional
electrically generate light.

When agitated by movement, algae colony produces light for a short perious of time.

CO2 Consumption

Dinoflagellate photosynthesis is capable of converting CO2 in glucose. This provides residual potential energy within cultures longer after decay.

Conversion to biofuel

Dinoflagellates may contain large amounts of high-quality lipids, the principal component of fatty acid methyl esters. The harvest of these organisms provides a suitable choice as a bioresource for biodiesel production.

Natural medium

Dinoflagellates are marine organisms that thrive in the natural medium of marine water. It makes them suitable for growth in the coastal cities with the use of natural salt water resources only.

ALGAE AT DAR

The dinoflagellates were grown in SANDS lab as part of the Digital Art Ranch at ASU.
This space supports DIY biology as well as other forms of researching interactive materials (image 6).

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Image 6. The experience of working with dinoflagellates, photos from DAR.

Growing algae takes a lot of patience and attentiveness. Not only we had to keep in a specific medium for the lack of fresh marine water, but also synchronise its day and night cycles with the lab operating hours.

During the day cycle (~12 hours), photosynthesis happens, and algae transform CO2 into glucose. During the night cycle (~12 hours also), they multiply and show bioluminiscense if agitated. Like humans, dinoflagellates are active during the day, rest during the night, and are very irritated when their rest is interrupted.

The optimal living condition for dinoflagellate is a room temperature 18 to 24°C (65 to 75°F) and avoiding rapid temperature fluctuations. This was regulated using a white LED lamp, which can be changed for a cool white fluorescent light.

Challenges

Time was a limiting factor as cultures would take a week or two to regain its properties from packaging. This opened for the possibility that cultures order may have been non-lively upon arrival.

Also the time for sub-dividing cultures takes 3-4 weeks, again letting the subcultures regain their properties. Then when testing cultures, this would have to be done over a span of days to few weeks to determine the necessary action for culturing.

A typical dinoflagellate flash of light contains about 100 million photons and lasts about a tenth of a second. In a testing format, it is suggested to use a control amount and compare the luminous value on the scale of 10. Also, one has to be very careful not to “stimulate” the culture before you actually measuring their light output because the first time they flash they produce a lot more light than each successive flash.

Learned

Patience and constantly being aware of the cultures. The cultures can be unforgiving when they begin to use bio luminescence and taking additional time to recharge before seeing the effect again. Also there was a problem to document the effect during an appropriate time.For circadian rhythms to

For circadian rhythms to be aligned with documentation during the day. The cultures would be in a night cycle during the day. Causing a problem of space, we had to devise a small container that would keep temperatures low and block enough light pollution from the room it was placed in.

DINOFLAGELLATE BUILDING FACADE SYSTEM

The project is a living building system that is attached to buildings in coastal cities and relies on algae for light and fuel production. It utilizes ocean water resources as a medium for dinoflagellate. It consists of tubes filled with algae-infused fluid, distributed operational nodes that control the water flow and a controlling device.

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Image 7. Facade system sketch

The system works in 3 different modus operandi: day, night and
harvesting organic residues for biofuel production.

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System elements

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Figure 2. System elements

Day mode

During the day, the water is supplied from the ocean water resources and distributed to the LIFE/LIGHT and other building systems, e.g. cooling. The algae-infused fluid flows into the tubes attached to a building facade and exposed to the sun.

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Figure 3. Day mode

Night mode

At night, algae-infused water fills the interior tube system that prevents its exposure to
city night illumination. When moved, the fluid gives away cold light that supports quiet
night activities inside a building.

In this mode, the most interaction between a human and the system happens. Human and algae share the same habitat and have to live in harmony in order for the system to work. If the night cycle is distracted by a human’s late night activities, algae do not multiply. When a person moves within the space with the algae tubes, they also move, arousing bioluminescence and illuminating the space.

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Figure 4. Night mode

Harvest mode

At the end of dinoflagellates life cycle, they become a residual organic matter that can be harvested in order to produce biofuel.

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Figure 5. Night mode

Operational node

The node serves an illustration to a highway of tracks within a system.
There would be numerous tubes to ensure the cultures are filtering, harvesting and transport to the correct location.

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Image 8. Operational node

Controlling node

Inspired by thermostats, the control unit provides a basis for displaying information and controlling additional systems in a house.

The 3 buttons would allow for the most critical options of the system to be chosen.
Additionally, the display provides a small sample of the dinoflagellates that would be tested. Depending on the condition of the sample and the previous sample was taken, the filter option could be accepted. Cycling the dinoflagellate culture and providing more medium.

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Image 9. Controlling node

The origin of the design needed to resemble a simple form of communication to a user that performs maintenance with the architecture embedded system. Not only would it provide given information on the LCD screen but it has the ability to control other system operations as needed.

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Image 10. Inspiration for the controlling node. Image courtecy of Honeywell.

The questions then are:

What is the boundary between an artifact and nature? Is the LIFE/LIGHT system alive?

Would you co-inhabit space in algae and adjust your habits so that both species thrive or control it remotely and transform living creatures into a utility?

AME410 Air Quality Display Monitor

Project by Anthony Franqui, Chris Kennedy, and Jackson Sipes

The concept for our project was based on the fact that air quality is an important issue that is affecting environmental and public health alike. We wanted to create a system that could easily visualize how the air quality has been affecting a local community, and also improve the air quality in that area.

We designed and conceptualized an Air Quality Display Monitor that is portable and allows you to visualize the quality of air in an community area through a large LCD screen and comparing two lichen samples pre and post-filtration. Our prototype reflects the type of features that the final product would have, but does not represent the final physical structure that will be seen in our conceptual project.

For our prototype, we used a solid wood frame encasing spray painted white with faux moss as representation of Lichen. Air Quality data from a Sparkfun Air Quality Sensor was displayed on an Arduino LCD Screen while connected to an Arduino UNO.

Project

All other information about our project concept and future implementations can be found here on our Powerpoint: AQDM

Contributions were as follows:

Anthony Franqui: Fabrication and CAD conceptual design

Chris Kennedy: Arduino Code Setup and Materials

Jackson Sipes: Documentation, Presentation Materials and Conceptual Design

 

Final Project- The DIY Seed Kit

Project by Inez, Cody, Ziyi, and Erin

Our concept stems from the terrible growing conditions of the desert. Only very few plants can grow out here (namely, corn and citrus) due to the dry and hot environment.

What if there was a kit that you could buy that could allow you to grow many different plants, regardless of conditions? What if this kit was also biodegradable and inherently organic?

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This is our result. The package itself is made completely out of cardboard, with paper sticker labels under each item to help identify them.

In the top left corner is Scoby. It is in a glass jar, and contains more than enough for several plants. The fermented tea is the main component in the kit; it helps balance the pH of the soil, retains moisture (which is very important in the desert), and also acts as a natural pesticide by keeping away harmful bacteria from the seeds. We placed more scabby than necessary in the kit to allow for someone to start their own culture if desired.

In the bottom left corner is a collection of tea bags. There are about 10 included. They act as the container for the seed and it’s components, and are completely biodegradable.

The center houses the instructions, both in written and youtube format via a url. The center section itself just serves as a work area and a depiction of our logo.

The top right corner holds a bag of soil. This soil is intended to be placed in the tea bag, but there should be enough to fill a small gardening pot if desired.

The bottom right corner contains a bag of approximately 10 seeds. These particular seeds are broccoli and were picked for their high tolerance of acidity. Kits in theory could sell with various other seeds as starters, but with everything else virtually the same, are not a big factor in choice.

As stated earlier, our instructions also exist in video form.

 

For our display, we also planted a bag using this method, and hooked it up with soil moisture and pH level sensors via Arduino. The readout is on an LCD screen.

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The contributions include-

Cody: Arduino code and setup

Inez: Instruction sheet, scoby supply, and kit construction

Ziyi: Video editing and photography, tea bag supply, and kit construction

Erin: Documentation, seed and soil bag supply, and display box construction

Project Status Update – Air Filter

Summary:

Our Biodesign project will be a filter that is placed on top of roofs and placed in air conditioning systems. The filter will be made from a compound of coffee grounds and potassium hydroxide that has been heated and then formed into a usable shape. The compound it able to absorb both methane and CO2 exceptionally well. Once the compound has been exhausted and absorbed the material can be used as a fuel source that burns much more cleanly than typical fossil fuels.

Pictures

We have currently are awaiting some of our materials for the project but our two main components are coffee grounds and potassium hydroxide.

 

Coffee grounds

Coffee Grounds

 

 

Potassium hydroxide

Potassium Hydroxide

Code:

We currently have no code but we plan to have the code output information from a methane sensor for the user.  It will allow the user to know how much methane is in the air and when the filter has filled.

Timeline:

  1. (This week) For our project, we wish to make the compound in real life

2. (Nest week) Then place the compound into an existing air filter and have it absorb the gas

3.  (Last week) Once the filter is working we will make sensor to go along with it so that is it much easier for the public to use it

Group Member contributes:

Antonio: Help with research, programming, and designing.
Colin: Help with design, implementation, and programming.
Timothy: Help with construction, effects on world, and design.
Arturo: Help with the gathering of materials, coding, and building.
 

 

Bio-luminescence Update

This prototype shown below illustrates the bio-luminescent system will illuminate when the algae are agitated. The prototype consists of UV sensitive liquid and a servo motor acts a generalized form of actuation to disturb the system.

The prototype suggests that regardless of final concept, there is some consideration that need to be accounted for when completing the system. For example. a form of actuation that can be performed to a non-moisture form of algae. Other considerations would be to maximize sensing/actuation that reacts to a users input. Creating the notion of object-user receptive interactions.

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Depending upon whether or not an algae culture in possession is able to regain its luminescent qualities, will determine time tables for testing an integrated system for dry actuation. But regardless there will be an iteration that requires a moisture dependent system.

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Timeline:

4/12 – Present prototype, discuss design for final iteration
4/17 – Divide algae culture, test dry system, design fabrication for project
4/19 – Create code and electronics for the interactive system
4/24 – Putting system together with new culture in place
4/26 – Final touch-ups on project
4/28 – Showcase