teresa van dongen uses bacteria to create ambio, a bioluminescent light

image courtesy of teresa van dongen




ocean waves glowing blue in the dark of night is a rare and magical occurrence that happens every so often, but needs to be experienced in person. the phenomenon is a result of bioluminescent micro-organisms found in seawater that emit light when provided with oxygen, each time a wave rises and falls. this scientific happening is what has fueled teresa van dongen to create lighting installation that exists in the same way. ‘ambio’ balances two weights and a glass tube half-filled with an artificial seawater medium. this is supplemented by a photobacterium species — provided by B.M. joosse and R.M.P. groen, two life science and technology students at TU delft who are currently working on prolonging the lifespan of the population — that has been isolated from an octopus, to create the ambient glow. giving the lamp a gentle push every once in a while, like the constant roll of ocean waves, keeps the weights moving and illuminated.



the concept of ‘ambio’
video courtesy of teresa van dongen





with ‘ambio’, it was van dongen’s intention to create something which visualized her research and expressed how nature could be used as a source of energy, both physically and aesthetically. currently, the bacteria harnessed for the project has the life span of two days, until nutrients run out, or until the population becomes too dense within the tube in which they are housed; at which point they need to be replaced. it is the dutch designer’s goal to eventually create an work whereby liquid food is constantly added to the fluid with bacteria, while an abundant amount of this fluid is constantly drained, without the use of electricity — theoretically keeping the population of microorganisms alive for eternity, rendering ‘ambio’ self-sufficient in the form of a living lamp for the home.

‘ambio’ is composed of two weights and a tube which houses an artificial seawater medium and photobacterium
image © design academy eindhoven


up close of the tube in its unilluminated state
image courtesy of teresa van dongen


two weights are used to create the motion of ‘waves’ which keeps the lamp illuminated
image courtesy of teresa van dongen



accompanying ‘ambio’, is van dogen’s ‘lumist’ which also investigates energy as a precious commodity. the lighting object is a result of her exploration into finding ways to use heat that is lost from halogen lamps, and functions as a luminary and humidifier in one. the heat from the bulb keeps the surrounding water just below boiling point, causing the liquid to evaporate. as this happens, water from an adjacent reservoir replenishes the vessel — capturing the contradictory traits of water and light in glass, offering a visualization of lost energy.

‘lumist’ by teresa van dongen
photo by femke reijerman, © design academy eindhoven




‘ambio’ and ‘lumist’ are being presented at dutch design week 2014 at the design academy eindhoven‘s graduation exhibition.

teresa van dongen bioluminescent lamp designboom
teresa von dongen
portrait © designboom