For the past nine years Sydney’s annual festival of light, music and ideas – Vivid Sydney – has transformed the city and surrounds into a veritable wonderland of lights, sculptures and grand scale projections.
In 2018 the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will be the first university to have its own Vivid Sydney installation, a living breathing “algae forest” of coloured light, taking algae out of the lab and into a very public, and international, arena.
Although algae sustain the health of our oceans and provide 50 per cent of the air we breathe, these microscopic plants don’t often get the credit they deserve. Director of the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3) Professor Peter Ralph says the aim of the installation is to improve public perception of algae through a colourful, interactive and visually engaging display that will “shake off its ‘slimy’ image” and open viewers’ minds to algae’s potential as a revolutionary raw material in a changing world.
“I really believe that the potential for algae’s use in a sustainable future is limitless. As we move away from petroleum-based products algae can play a pivotal role in Australia’s clean energy future, and the high value opportunities in medicine, food and nutraceuticals are also exciting and tantalisingly close,” he says.
Professor Ralph says UTS is well placed to support the development of industries seeking a clean, green renewable raw material. In 2016 the NSW Government supported the establishment of the Deep Green Biotech Hub (DGBH), also led by Professor Ralph, with further funding in 2017 through the NSW Boosting Business Innovation Program.
“Government and industry are already committed to the establishment of algae-based industries and are making sure we are part of the emerging algal bioeconomy. Our participation in Vivid Lights takes ‘green gold’ to a whole new level and a whole new audience,” Professor Ralph says.
NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said Vivid Sydney was a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on cutting-edge research funded by the NSW Government at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Deep Green Biotech Hub.
“The ‘Living Lights’ installation aims to highlight algae as a versatile and sustainable resource and is a wonderful example of where innovation, science, technology and art intersect at Vivid Sydney,” Mr Marshall said.
“We are delighted to be providing some of our best and brightest students with the global platform of Vivid Sydney to draw attention to the possibilities of algae as a sustainable resource.
“It’s a very exciting and dynamic space, and I look forward to seeing UTS bring its research into the mainstream through Vivid Sydney, in a way that sparks conversations and stimulates curiosity among everyday Australians.”
And what of the installation itself? What can people expect? DGBH and C3 scientists and designers are hard at work bringing together an installation that, by day, harvests the energy of the sun to sustain and nourish the algae, housed in 18 vertical tubular reactors. At night the reactors, reaching up to 2.5 metres tall, will be illuminated with bright LED lights, highlighting the red, gold and fluorescent green hues of the different algae strains.
To complement the installation, as part of Vivid Ideas, the general public will also have an opportunity to attend a free forum at the MCA on Saturday 9 June titled, “Algae is the new black”. A panel of industry experts, innovators, inventors and research leaders will share their experiences and vision for a future where algae plays a pivotal role in our daily lives.
UTS's Living Lights installation is supported by Destination NSW. Vivid Sydney runs from 25 May to 16 June.
Want to know more about Vivid Sydney 2018?
• Vivid Sydney program
• Living Lights installation
• Vivid Ideas - Algae is the new black