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Living Architecture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LIAR (Living Architecture)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-06-30

Living Architecture (LIAR) is a modular bioreactor-wall, which is based on the operational principles of microbial fuel cell technology and synthetic ‘consortia’ of microbes. LIAR is conceived as a next-generation selectively- programmable bioreactor and integral component of human dwelling, capable of extracting valuable resources from waste water and air, generation of oxygen and production of proteins and fiber by manipulating consortia performance. Its operational principles are grounded in distributed sensing, decentralised autonomous information processing, high-degree of fault-tolerance and distributed actuation and reconfiguration. Applications within urban systems are examined as a form of customizable micro-agriculture for installation in domestic, public (schools, hospitals) and office environments. Such a system has far reaching impacts on the building performance (resilience, resource recycling) manufacturing and design with ecosystems. The project establishes:

• Foundational concepts through which ‘designed’ metabolisms can computationally process, recycle, remediate and synthesise valuable compounds from waste water.
• Transferable principles by which synthetic ecosystems can shape the environmental performance of our living spaces to increase our health, productivity and ecosystems impact.
• New standards for synthetic ‘ecosystems’ through consortia design, engineering and optimization.
The work carried out during the reporting period interrogated the principles of operation for the Living Architecture bioreactor species. Specific developments took place in regards to the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) bioreactor, and work over the next reporting period will aim to commence the integration of the MFC bioreactor with the other two bioreactor species in the project - Photobioreactor and Synthetic Microbial Consortia (SMC), and to advance the programmability of the system. The ODACS, prepared during this reporting period in collaboration with all consortium partners, outlined future developments for an infrastructure centred on the MFC-based ‘living brick’ developed by UWE-BBiC. The experimental work carried out established the computational infrastructure (digital and analog) that will be necessary to combine the living bricks into wall arrays and to start developing their integration with photobioreactors and synthetic microbial consortia over the second year of the project. The MFC bioreactor provided a valuable prototype and a technical platform for the integration of different work packages and skillsets towards the project objectives.
The MFC-based ‘living brick’ developed, by integrating structure and process into a single unit for the construction/choreography of space, has achieved a considerable milestone beyond state-of-the-art technologies and already garnered the attention of the general public, both for its implications and impacts on the circular economy (what resources and waste can become) and for changing a pedagogical and disciplinary understanding of architecture in the 21st century, whereby our habitats are transformed from inert spaces into programmable sites that possess some of the qualities of living systems. Such architectures possess particular metabolisms and become micro-agricultural sites for the cultivation of microorganisms and the dynamic production of electricity, clean water, and biomass.

The living brick also represents the first prototype for integrating anaerobic fuel cells with structure. We are developing this experimental research platform towards programmable operations that include modification of internal environment such as ceramic technology, as well as metabolic modifications using synthetic biology techniques. Our research is situated within a context whereby meaningful parameters that influence the efficiency/performance of these structural cells can be identified and evaluated for the (downstream) development of commercial, and customisable products.
Brick assemblies and MFC-based bioreactors being developed and tested at the Bristol BioEnery Centre
Living Brick setups being tested in the BBiC laboratory
Living Brick Unit
Images of different approaches which were considered by LSG for developing ceramic substrates
Photobioreactor Plate
Upper part of Final LIAR Wall
Images of ceramic cylinders setup developed by LSG in collaboration with BBiC, to be tested by BBiC
Lower part of FINAL LIAR Wall
Biosensor detecting phosphate uptake in P. Putida