Synthetic Photosynthesis is a mechanical flower crafted with colour filters that "bloom" with the help of servo motors. It "releases" oxygen in the form of a piece of paper with the chemical symbol printed on it when given carbon dioxide -- or blown on by the viewer -- detected by a sound sensor. The goal is to communicate the process of photosynthesis in an entertaining and aesthetically compelling way, while retaining the core of the biological process.
produced by: Keita Ikeda
For this project, I defined "habitat" as the symbiotic system that surrounds and sustains life, and the processes therein. The relationship between an organism and its environment is mutual; no species can survive without the others. I focused on a process between humans and plants, specifically photosynthesis. I am drawn to the processes and exchanges of life -- a ubiquitous yet ephemeral narrative of sorts -- and wanted to emulate it in conjunction with my creative practice. This piece hopes to capture our relationship with our habitat through its interaction, as well as the beauty of it.
Process and implementation
My artistic practice involves geometry and exploring shapes in spaces with different numbers of dimensions, and I wanted to build on these elements in this project. My experience has primarily been in creative programming on displays, and I saw this project as an opportunity to translate my practice into physical objects. As such, I looked for insight in practices and practitioners that physically engage with geometry. The following were particularly insightful: traditional Japanese craft of origami and kirigami; the shape-shifting structures designed by Chuck Hoberman; and FoldHaus' large-scale installation Blumen Lumen.
I arrived at colour filters as my material for the flower, which are durable, and could keep their form well. I used the programming environment Processing to generate templates for the petals, and scored the filters by hand with a scalpel.
The Arduino program takes input from a photoresistor to sense light, and a sound sensor to simulate the sensing of carbon dioxide when blown on. When it senses light, the five motors attached to colour filters are actuated, and the flower blooms. When it senses both light and sound, it actuates the motor with the oxygen symbol to "release" oxygen.