(Antfer) #1
July 2019, ScientificAmerican.com 15


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3 )


Cultured Art

A designer uses bacteria
to create stunning lamps

Most people think of bacteria as unseen dis-
ease carriers and simply want to wash their
hands of them. But Stockholm-based indus-
trial designer Jan Klingler is putting them in
the spotlight with his colorful lamps. “Every
living being and place has its own unique
and personal microbiological fingerprint,”
Klingler says. By capturing such signatures,
he aims to bottle memories.
Customers who order one of Klingler’s
lamps—which will be for sale soon—will
get a kit with a sterile swab they can brush
on a loved one, pet or object. (Klingler him-
self swabbed the subway station pillar
where he met his partner.) The customer
will send the sample back to Klingler, who
will culture it in a petri dish.
Bacterial colonies erupt in different col-
ors, which Klingler can customize by varying

the species and growth medium. This ap -
proach creates flam boyant shapes “growing
into each other and melting together in
interesting patterns,” he says. Klingler and
his collaborator Volkan Özenci, a microbiol-
ogist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden,

are now experimenting with
tuning growth speed and
dur ation. “It is impossible to
exactly foresee what will
grow,” Klingler says.
After the bacteria multiply
for a day or two, he en cases them in resin,
making what he calls “modern fossils.” The
resin disks are then embedded in blown-
glass structures that resemble laboratory
equipment. Finally, bright LEDs bring the
colors and patterns to life. — Prachi Patel

Colorful bacterial colonies—
such as Serratia marcescens
and Escherichia coli ( 1 and 2 )
and other species ( 3 )—add
flair to flasklike lamps.

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