The bio-light is a concept that uses different biological technologies to create ambient light effects. It explores the use of bioluminescent bacteria, which are fed with methane and composted material (drawn from the methane digester in the Microbial Home system). Alternatively the cellular light array can be filled with fluorescent proteins that emit different frequencies of light.


The design concept is a wall of glass cells containing a live bacterial culture that emits soft green light by bioluminescence. It has been created using a technique where individual cells are hand-blown into a steel frame which is freestanding or hung on the wall.

Each cell is connected via silicon tubes to the food source, (which is drawn from a reservoir at the base) creating a closed loop system for the living material. The food source could potentially be drawn out of the sludge from the methane digester that forms the centerpiece of the kitchen in the Microbial Home.

This represents a new genre of ‘living’ biological products. We have involved the microbial community in the home to provide the soft mood lighting typical of luminescence by using energy stored in our waste streams. Potentially biological products could be self-energizing, adaptive, responsive, self-repairing, act as biological sensors to environmental conditions, and change the way we communicate information.

About luminescence
Luminescence is the phenomenon where light is produced at low temperatures, as opposed to incandescence, where light is generated as a result of high heat. Bioluminescent organisms produce an enzyme, luciferase, which interacts with a particular type of light-emitting molecule called a luciferin.



How we could use it
Bioluminescence produces low-intensity light, more suitable for tracing, warning, ambience and indication than functional illumination. Its speed of generation, being dependent on chemical reaction, is slower than most conventional light sources and the life form itself must be kept alive. But it needs no wires and is independent of the electricity grid. The living nature of the material provides interesting possibilities for changing, unpredictable, environmentally responsible ambient effects.

Some possible uses might include
• Night-time road markings, e.g. bioluminescent plants that indicate where the edge of the road is
• Warning strips on flights of stairs, kerbsides etc.
• Informational markings in low-light settings, eg. theatres, cinemas, nightclubs
• Diagnostic indicators, e.g. a colored body health map in the home apothecary, pollution levels, local bacterial ecology etc.
• Monitoring the status of diseases like diabetes in individual patients, using bioluminescent biosensors
• New genres of atmospheric interior lighting with, for example, possible therapeutic and mood-enhancing effects.

Far-future design concepts
The bio-light is part of the Microbial Home Probe, a far-future design concept. It is not intended as a production prototype nor will it be sold as a Philips product. Like past Probe Design Concepts that have stimulated discussion around a range of issues, this concept is testing a possible future – not prescribing one.


19 October 2011