Fall 2015 | James Bartolozzi | Digital Media Design E'16

Each school participating in the Biodesign Challenge was given a theme from which their concepts would spawn; and our class was given the theme of energy. Each group approached this theme in unique ways and took advantage of how the term can describe so many different relationships, forms, and phenomena.

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    The Methanoroid group approached the term “energy” from its more obvious and publicly discussed meaning; fuel and climate change. This project proposes a new method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by constructing large surfaces on top of deep sea vents. These vents are responsible for a large portion of methane being constantly released into the atmosphere due to the melting of frozen methane hydrates under the sea floor. The Methanoroid is a structure based on multiple gyroid pieces attached together to form one large continuous surface. This surface will provide a large hard substrate for otherwise nomadic methanotrophic bacteria. The formation of large methanotrophic biofilms will sequester the methane gas otherwise being expelled from these vents. The class readings shed light on the abundance of these deep sea microbes as well as the intention to use methane hydrates as potential fuel sources. Ultimately, these bacteria will produce calcium carbonate as a byproduct, which will form on the gyroid structures. The calcium carbonate can then be retrieved and used as a sustainable base for new types of plastics. This project ultimately proposes a new method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a way that does not affect any industry, storing natural gas without environmental recoil, and provides a sustainable source for a globally utilized material.

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    The Chitophony group approached the idea of energy from a more theoretical standpoint: the energy of sound. This artistic project aims to analyze our relationship with sound and music by using biological components. The Chitophony piece will stand as an interactive exhibit to demonstrate this functionality.

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    The Synthetic Symbiosis group is focusing on the power of spider webs and their ability to serve as accessories for humans. Spider webs have many interesting physical capabilities beyond their tensile strength; such as their polarization which allows them to actively move to entangle particulate in the air. This project will consist of a demonstration of how spider webs can be used as a fashionable accessory, as well as a useful material for filtration. Spider webs can be used as masks and fabric in order to protect against airborne pollutants.

    The final group is exploring energy as it pertains to the microbiome of the human body, specifically the skin. The skin microbiome is very complex and plays an important role in a human’s health. This group’s goal is to create a projected keyboard device that automatically distributes healthy bacteria needed by the biome. Since the device can operate on any surface, it is meant to reduce the amount of antibacterial disinfectants and introduce the idea of targeted probiotics as a method of prevention. This group is exploring energy through the lens of microbial fuel. According to the class readings, the abundance of beneficial bacteria, specifically Staphylococcus epidermidis, can actually be beneficial and defend a person’s body against unwanted microbes such as MRSA. If the S. epidermidis out matches MRSA in terms of abundance and available energy resources, S. epidermidis will effectively prevent MRSA infections.