September 2014 to May 2015
All components were composted or recycled.
Dr. Dawn Carter and her Intro to Biology students
This project had two main objectives: produce light and electricity from algae, and determine whether that is practical. We focused on two species of algae: Cladophora, an invasive from the swamps around Rochester, and Pyrocystis fusiformis, a common bioluminescent algae found throughout the world's oceans. Our experiments were enlightening, if not strictly successful.
Using a simple spectroscope, we measured the wavelength distribution of various light sources. Because natural sunlight is considered the most pleasant spectrum in the visual range, we could use it as a baseline against any other source of light. We hoped to compare it to the light emitted by the dinoflagellate Pyrocystis fusiformis. Unfortunately for us, the algae only glowed dimly for short periods of time, so we were ultimately unable to accurately measure its wavelength.
We ended up making our electrochemical cell from a series of split pennies, using the Cladophora algae as an electolyte. We achieved a voltage drop of about 2.5 volts, though the battery's internal resistance proved too high to generate any significant current.
We presented our findings at Imagine RIT alongside a team of Biology students from Dr. Carter's Intro to Biology class. Their final project was about culturing Pyrocystis fusiformis. Our battery was set up connected to a multimeter, and Dr. Carter wheeled out a shelf covered in garbage bags so passers-by could watch the dinoflagellates glow with their characteristic sparkling blue.