A lamp that works thanks to bacteria

It is a lamp, but also a plant. You place it on your desk and it lights up without having to be plugged into the wall. Energy comes from the tiny life forms present in the plant, the bacteria.

This brilliant idea came to an Italian start-up, Creon, made up of young researchers interested in sustainability. They are three young people: Federico Merz (CEO of the company, biotechnology student and fruit and vegetable trader), Giulia Minghetti (architect and project manager) and Alessandro Turcato (biotechnologist). Six years ago, they learned about the existence of microbial fuel cells. Thanks to a metabolic process, these generate electricity through microorganisms living in the soil. This technique is therefore based on a series of biochemical reactions that produce energy in an extremely sustainable way and without producing greenhouse gases or other pollutants.

Their main goal is to find an alternative for public lighting, so as to illuminate city parks and gardens using a new type of renewable energy. Their invention could be a great turning point in general, but above all it would be of enormous help for their country, which is among the largest consumers of energy and resources for the lighting of its cities.

According to a 2018 study, conducted by the Observatory on Italian public accounts of the Catholic University of Milan, entitled “Illuminazione pubblica: spendiamo troppo” (“Public lighting: we spend too much”), Italy consumes too much energy for public lighting. The data show that in 2017, for example, the amount of electricity used for this purpose is approximately 6,000 GWh, with a per capita consumption of 100 kWh, almost twice the European average which stands at 51 kWh. In economic terms, public lighting costs Italians 1.7 billion euros per year.

This data is also revealed by NASA images, which clearly show that “Italy is one of the brightest countries of the continent”. By comparing images showing the per capita luminous fluxes of Italy and Germany, the luminous flux of the former is almost triple that of the latter.

Also on the basis of what has emerged from the several studies on the subject, young researchers are more and more convinced to carry on their project and to illuminate Italy and, perhaps, the rest of the world with their invention. For the moment, their lamp-plant has already received several awards, making Creon win the “Start Up Light Up” award from the Italian Lighting Association, the Lifebility Award in 2016 and that of the Alamo Foundation of Milan in 2017.

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