Bioluminescent Challenge Has Students Feeding Their Lamps

[Tom Lombardo] is an engineer and an educator. When a company sent him a Dino Pet–a bioluminescent sculpture–he found it wasn’t really usable as a practical light source. He did, however, realize it would be an interesting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) project for students to produce bioluminescent sculptures.

The lamps (or sculptures, if you prefer) contain dinoflagellates which is a type of plankton that glows when agitated. Of course, they don’t put out a strong light and–the main problem–you have to agitate the little suckers to get them to emit light. [Tom] found that there was a mild afterglow when you stop shaking, but not much. You can get an idea of how much light they make in the video below. The idea for a school project would be to make practical ambient lighting that didn’t require much input power to agitate the plankton.

Of course, this is a lamp that is alive. So there’s a certain break in period along with particular care instructions (you need new sea water introduced every so often). You can agitate them too much and kill the plankton. You have to maintain the temperature within certain limits and if you want it to last more than a few months, you need to feed your lamp.

If you search for dinoflagellates, you’ll find there’s plenty of resources on where to find a starter colony and how to grow and use them. There’s even the required instructable. We’ve seen at least one bio lighting project that was an entry for the Hackaday prize.

11 thoughts on “Bioluminescent Challenge Has Students Feeding Their Lamps

  1. bioluminescent bacteria tend to have longer light shedding timespans than dinoflagellates, but it’s mushrooms that really show the most potential for lighting systems, dissappointingly enough. it’s too bad they only glow fora short period.

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