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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

An algae suit that feeds the wearer

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Burton Nitta)

Two artists have created a wearable system of tubes farming edible algae that provides sustenance to the wearer.

Looking for a sustainable food source? Why not algae? Two UK-based artists have created what they're calling "Algaculture": a symbiotic "suit" made up of plastic tubes in which algae can grow, fed by light, allowing humans to feed via photosynthesis in a roundabout way.

The algae could provide vital nutrients to the human wearer while being self-sustaining.

Artists Michael Burton and Michiko Nikita described a performance piece based on the suit: "This scenario is, among other sources, inspired by the work of scientists Debora MacKenzie and Michael Le Page, who wrote about photosynthetic creatures, or what they call plantimals in the New Scientist (2010). Such photosynthetic organisms currently include lichen, sea slugs and salamanders that welcome algae into their bodies, in a partnership called endosymbiosis."

Algaculture also made an appearance at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Digital Design Week last year, in a piece called "Algae Opera". An opera singer festooned with algae tubes used her lung capacity to feed the algae with carbon dioxide, producing high-quality algae, which observers could then taste.

The artists said, "The composition of the song and the singer's vocal technique are redesigned to specifically produce algae and enrich its taste. To do this, the composer and singer use the new science of sonic enhancement of food, where different pitches and frequencies make food taste either bitter or sweet."

As a water plant, algae's taste has been described as rather similar to seaweed; as a primary human food source, it might have some flavour limitations. Perhaps it can be cooked with some delicious bugs.


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