Projects Course 2017

Fairyland: sensory bio-ecosystem for air pollution

We focus on the harmful substances in the air. Today the air pollution has become one of the most serious environmental risks. Young children are especially vulnerable, 570,000 deaths in children under five linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution every year. In fact, children can minimise the harmful effects of air pollution with awareness of them.

By using some specific living things, we can build an ecosystem to detect the air pollution. Children don’t need to acquire the air quality information from the Internet. As a new communication channel, the ecosystem conveys the information from the air to the children. When it detect the harmful substance in the air, the number of plants and insects will decrease. Then children need to decode and understand the message before returning the feedback. The storytelling will help children understand the information and make the healthy decision, although they even don’t know it is a healthy decision.
The project is built to be modular, so it could always be possible to remove a species of it appeared not to be appropriate, and to replace it with another one. So far, six species or group of species with distinct functions are involved in this ecosystem, which are Dwarf rice,
Lotus corniculatus, duckweed, red bloom algae, insects, and decomposer. The working principle is shown in figure 1.

When the rice is exposed to the ozone, it will release an allelochemical which will kill the surrounding plants, but only the Lotus will be killed since there is a physical separation with all of them except the lotus. The duckweed and the red algae bloom are aquatic plants. The colour of the red algae blooms is very noticeably. When the duckweed receives the sulphur dioxide, it will release acid which will kill the algae. The third chemical we choose is toluene. When the insect is exposed to the toluene, it will trigger cannibalism, and the bugs will eat the other members of their species.

To ensure its viability, it requires four principal components: Carbon will be provided under the form of atmospheric carbon dioxide and will be assimilated by the plant photosynthesis. Nitrogen is in the form of atmospheric nitrogen and will be assimilated by the symbiosis
between Lotus and Rhizobium. Oxygen and hydrogen can be provided either by watering the ecosystem or by atmospheric oxygen. Plants will provide food to the insects. The decomposers will decompose all the dead matter. In that case, the amount of each species
is dynamic but maintain a relatively constant value (figure 2).