- Olivia Freasier
Breeding Ground is an enlarged bacterial petri dish created to advance synthetic biology, implementing techniques that mimic nature’s involuntary sense and growth. Biological production itself is a paradox as it is industrious, concerned with growth, while biological nature is concerned with equilibrium. This paradox begs whether production can actually be a sustainable, renewable practice. In response, Breeding Ground joins the looming biological revolution to create self healing materials for enhanced building longevity, living materials with healing properties, biodegradable and compostable products, and zero electricity light sources. Applications of synthetic biology are broad from producing food for an exponentially growing population to mediating environmental damage wreaked by centuries of industrial modernization. Breeding Ground aims to reconcile the logistics of production and consumption by complementing existing natural systems.
The project is sited at an abandoned quarry lake adjacent to the Nashville International Airport. Water of quarry lakes tends to be very cold and extremely toxic. Breeding Ground uses bacteria, the simplest known organism capable of replicating when provided with only simpler components, to transform the water reservoir. Although the site is seemingly infertile, Breeding Ground conceptualizes an approach to renew this resource tenfold.
The cleansing method begins as the bacterial dispensers sink to the quarry floor. The first bacteria implemented on site are a unique group from the Desulfobacteraceae family. The strain is crucial to the cleansing of the quarry lake, providing clean water necessary for subsequent strains of bacteria. This species is a sulfate reducing bacteria or SRB and are able to survive in an environment with low oxygen. In addition, the bacteria are able to bind zinc and sulfate in highly concentrated spheres of mineral deposits. This ability makes the bacteria appropriate in elimination of zinc, selenium, and arsenic from the toxic waters of the quarry lake.
As the SRB eat the heavy metals, the clean water pushes upwards on the toxic water causing Rayleigh-Taylor instability to occur. This principle is defined as the instability of an interface between two fluids of different densities. The ratio of toxic to clean water continually diminishes over decades until the quarry lake contains negligible mining contaminants. As this stratification of density happens, a SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, is added to produce a layer of microbial cellulose on the water surface through static fermentation.
Once the cellulose is fully matured, molding apparati suck the material into molds. As a material, bacterial cellulose holds many application potentials. It is digestible, non toxic, permeable and has high elasticity, moldability, tensile strength, and sound transduction. As well, depending on the drying method it can have absorbent or waterproof properties. These molded cisterns become the holding containers for research and production strains of bacteria. Research strains, like Bacillus for self healing concrete, could be cultivated to increase building longevity. Furthermore, multiple strains could be contained within one cistern to create a symbiotic and self regulating bacterial community.
The manufactured vessels, embedded with bacterial food, become both nutrient and packaging. Ancillary to packaging, the vessels propose a biodegradable, compostable, and non toxic chemical composition. The entire process extols the environmental effluence of synthetic material production by decreasing the environmental impact of materials through every life cycle step. Reproduction, evolution, and decay are the new vocabulary of production.