Italy, 2017

Project: Meteorite. 


Location: Venice & Milan, Italy. 

Author: External Reference; Carmelo Zappulla. 

Team: Iacopo Neri, Francesco Sacconi, Stefano Fontolan. 

Scientists all around the world have set 2030 as the deadline for a human mission on Mars, and, among all the technical challenges presented by this ambitious plan, oxygen production represents one of the biggest. Since 2015, NASA is using bacteria and algae for the development of an oxygen-production plant inside an experimental martian colony. This context inspired the design of a machine capable of producing oxygen and food through the photosynthesis of algae, an artificial meteor (Meteorite is the name of the project) that brings life, a photo-bioreactor that blends together human, technological, social and aesthetic challenges.
Panning back to planet Earth, it’s possible to notice how the entire world benefits from the powerful impact of algae, which, together with cyanobacteria, can generate up to 70-80% of the oxygen we breathe. For this reason, a responsible application of this technology on a global scale could enable us to contrast the growing levels of CO2 in the air and increase the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere. In this framework, the meteorite is a thought-provoking device that aims at spreading awareness about some of the global environmental issues that humanity must face. Meteorite associates careful aesthetics with the functionality of a liquid techno-garden that communicates to us in real-time the oxygen, biomass and nutrients levels produced. By scaling this up to an urban environment, Meteorite could contribute to the construction of a collaborative public space with the ability to bring urban communities closer to ecological problems.
Just like what we see in pallasite meteors, Meteorite is made of glass and steel: a metal structure holds transparent glass capsules, which are the cultivation environments for algae and bacteria. The 21 capsules of Meteorite include billions of micro-organisms such as Chlorella Vulgaris, sphere-shaped unicellular algae with a diameter of 1/20 of a hair, commonly described as a “superfood” because of its extremely high protein content (40-50%), and the Synechocystis 6803, sphere-shaped cyanobacteria with a diameter of 1/50 of a hair. Chlorella and Synechocystis are both capable of generating oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These organisms are photosynthetic: by absorbing the light coming from an integrated LED system, they produce around 10 liters of oxygen per day. Considering the small size of Meteorite, the quantity of oxygen produced is 8-10 times greater than that of a conifer forest.