Synergy is a light refractive system inspired by the wings of the Blue Morpho butterfly. By redesigning the traffic light and switching from artificial to bioluminescent light with algae, Synergy reduces traditional energy usage and light pollution. The traffic light sequesters carbon above ground and converts it to oxygen. By using piezoelectric sensors on the rails of the subway to generate electricity and fiber optic cables to channel natural light from above ground into subway stations, Synergy creates a self-sustaining loop and a more sustainable urban transportation experience.
The Synergy Multimorph System was developed and designed using a biomimetic methodology in conjunction with bio-assisted technology. Biomimicry operates on the tried and true understanding that nature's organisms, cycles, and systems have evolved the very way they were supposed to. Energy use, food production, and climate control are just a few examples of many where nature has already "solved" a problem, and where we could draw inspiration to solve the many problems of our own. The core of biomimetic theory and practice is not the question of what we can extract from nature, but what we can learn from nature and its 3.85 billion year old genius. How can nature serve as a blueprint to seek, design, and implement sustainable solutions that are conducive to life? Biomimetic designs have the potential to radically transform communities, cultures, and societies on a variety of scales to not only achieve harmony and abundance with the natural world, but transcend paradigms with emphasis on seeing ourselves as members of nature with respect and humility rather than conquerers of nature. It is a hopeful and necessary design methodology that brings forth the possibility of working for instead of against life.
The Synergy Multimorph System is a self-sustaining, light refractive system inspired by the wings of the Blue Morpho butterfly and its microstructural makeup. Their wing structure generates dynamic reflectivity crucial to the butterfly's survival. With a focus on the urban environment, we sought solutions to nighttime light pollution, smog emissions at traffic stops, fossil fuel consumption for electricity, disrupted circadian rhythms, and artificial sky glow. Overall, Synergy replaces artificial light as a multi-temporal and multi-modal lighting solution by utilizing multiple technologies that meet multiple needs at various scales. Above ground, Synergy works fourfold; as a traffic light, a light collector, a source of solar power, and a source of carbon sequestration. Below ground, in the busy subway stations, Synergy replaces artificial light with natural and bioluminescent light in the station, utilizes piezoelectric power to sustain it, and presents a unique and innovative public art display. Our redesign of a traditional traffic and street light was the outcome of seeking alternatives to artificial light and energy consumption, and as such, encompasses fiber optic technology and bioluminescent algae. Daytime sun rays are collected at the top of our light pole via specially designed solar collection lenses. These lenses harness full spectrum sunlight while still offering IR and UV protection.
Solar cells also have a home here to harness solar energy at the same time. From the solar collection lenses, fiber optic cables channel and reflect the sunlight into the traffic light vessel, eliminating the need for artificial bulbs. Natural light will direct traffic with carefully timed shutters as to only have one light (red, green, yellow) illuminated at a time. The traffic light globes themselves are carefully structured, much like the wings of our butterfly, so that it can better diffract and reflect light from inside. Synergy's fiber optic cables are also multi-functional below ground. They acutely channel light downwards to illuminate the depths of the subway systems, deliver high levels of power between our energy sources (solar cells and piezoelectric cells) and our energy sinks (algae's water and oxygen pumps), and provide our algae with its necessary natural light to thrive and photosynthesize in order to bioluminescence into the night. Energy produced during photosynthesis is collected (light energy) and stored in a battery (chemical energy) that powers the light (electrical energy) in the evenings. In order for this to work, the algae must be agitated. Synergy's algae is agitated using piezometric technology which pumps and channels the algae like a system of arteries. The algae is pumped from display tanks in the subway station up into the streetlight and traffic light vessels.
At night, bioluminescence directs traffic and ensures pedestrian safety. The water pumps ensure algal movement and survival, as well as serve as temperature regulation. Any energy required for the operation of water pumps is supplemented through the subway rail piezoelectricity and solar energy. Any excess energy generated can be sent back to the grid. Not only does algae have coveted bioluminescent properties, but it is also incredibly efficient at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; about 150 to 200 times more than trees.
This function is particularly beneficial in high-traffic city streets and intersections with heavy accumulated emissions. By converting this carbon into oxygen, our use of algae also promotes cleaner air and healthier people. The Synergy system is designed to adapt to changing seasons, temperatures, and lighting conditions on yearly, monthly, and daily timescales while maintaining cleaner air for years to come. Synergy also addresses a few of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals; Goal 3 Good Health and Wellbeing, Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, Goal 13 Climate Action, Goal 15 Life on Land, and Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.