I may sound like I’m being over enthusiastic in this video. I’m not. Everyone who has seen this thinks it is simply amazing.
My father, an ex navy man, has told me stories of glowing water since I was little. Being a person who was obsessed with all things that light up, this always stuck with me. I saw a headline one day that someone was making an algae-light. Sadly when I clicked on it, the algae was just there to create oxygen. It was a cool idea, but not what I was hoping for.
That slight disappointment drove me to create a night light using glowing algae. The process could be extremely simple.
1. Buy Algae.
2. set up light for algae (it needs a 12 hour light cycle and putting it in a window sill would kill it due to heat). It needs bulbs labelled 6500k or higher.
3. shake algae at night (it only lights up when agitated, and when it is on its “night” cycle).
I really wanted to add more to this project though, so I decided to put the algae in a klein bottle and build a custom base for it that would allow me to move a BB around inside the bottle using magnets. This would in turn, hopefully, agitate the algae and make it light up.
I built the base with a DC motor in mind. I dropped it in and added power, but the spin was way too fast and the BB wouldn’t “latch” onto a magnet. I was going to build a small Hbridge to do PWM, but I didn’t have the stuff in my drawer-o-parts and didn’t want to make a trip to the store. So, I stuffed a servo in there instead. It worked, and I thought the BB going back and forth was a cool bonus. You can download the files for the base here.
To get a nice strong light, you have to shake the algae pretty vigorously. I suspected the BB just wasn’t going to perturb them enough to really shine. As a backup, I took one of my kids toys, a “tornado machine” that was basically a water tight tube with a spinning paddle at the bottom. I was right, the tornado machine was much much brighter, but sprung a leak.
The part that is really frustrating is that I just couldn’t catch the effect on video. It seemed bright to my eyes, and a long exposure photo shows it off fairly well, but none of my cameras would get video. I’ve seen videos of this stuff, so I was especially annoyed.
Ultimately, I have moved it to a larger container next to my side of the bed and added some other miscellaneous algae. I tap on it and the result is like a tiny fireworks show in front of my eyes. It is so bizarre and beautiful.
Here’s a .gif I found of the effect. This isn’t my set up, but you can see what I’m talking about here.