Electricity-Free Lamp Is Powered by Octopus Bacteria

Electricity-Free Lamp Is Powered by Octopus Bacteria
Consumer Goods

Dutch designer Teresa Van Dongen has merged design and biology in her new project

Kiran Umapathy
  • 16 november 2016

Electricity? So passé. Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen dared to combine biology with the technology by creating an electricity-free lamp—the Ambio—that runs on octopus bacteria.  


By integrating the biosphere into the technosphere, van Dongen saw possibilities to use elements of nature as electronics. Inspired by deep-sea bacteria living on fish skin, she developed a lamp that lights up by activating octopus bacteria.

How does it work? The Ambio lamp is filled with living bioluminescent bacteria to create an artificial sea habitat inside the lamp. Because the bacteria needs oxygen to glow in a blue shade, the lamp was designed to sway from side to side while suspended, in order to mimic the movement of ocean waves that expose bacteria to oxygen.

While balancing two weights, the lamp features a glass tube half filled with an artificial seawater medium containing a carefully-selected type of unique luminescent bacteria species called photobacterium. Photobacterium is comprised of approximately 16 different species, both free-living and in colonies, that can survive in the ocean off sodium.

Van Dongen is currently researching similar bacteria found in jellyfish, plankton and other small sea creatures.

As it’s still unclear how long bacteria can survive in an artificial environment, TU Delft life science and technology students M. Joosse and R.M.P. Groen are working on ways to maximize its lifespan. Hopefully in the future, more technologies will be developed that use nature as a source of energy.


+bacterial lamp
+consumer goods
+life science
+teresa van dongen
+tu delft

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