Bio Simulators: Microbial Fuel Cell

‘Oxidising the spectrum’ is a sonic installation which explores the possibilities of Microbial electrochemistry in the compositional environment. This game-audio simulator is based on real data obtained for the original installation by composer Ricardo Climent and Chemical Engineer Dr Quan Gan back in 2004. A microbial fuel cell (MFC) can be built with relatively unsophisticated equipment and is capable of generating electricity, which can be converted into data to control several musical parameters. Experiments have been carried out using a single MFC to produce low voltage. This analog signal was sent to a Javelin Stamp (parallax2001) micro-controller and monitored on a computer to study the behavior of the cell. As the microorganisms oxidise the fuel (a carbohydrate), they start a process of voltage charge and discharge which repeats as long as they are constantly fed. By using four cells it is possible to derive patterns and musical ideas from the cycles. One of the main aims from a compositional perspective was to find ways of destabilising the optimal conditions of the living cell, which could mean musically expressive variations of the cycles and the patterns.