Cardiff Met Lecturer’s ‘Mud Robots’ set for Exhibition at the V&A

​19/09/2017

Microbial fuel cells - which use the electron-carrying capabilities of certain bacteria found in mud to produce small electrical currents.

A Cardiff Met lecturer is set to exhibit at a prestigious London design museum with a collaboration that has seen him create two little robots powered by mud from Barry Island.

Cardiff School of Art and Design Fine Art Lecturer Paul Granjon has worked with bio-engineer Michka Melo, FabLab Cardiff and the Ceramics programme to develop ‘Power of the Mud’, a new robotic installation powered by microbial fuel cells.

Now the design team are about to present the result of their experiments during the Digital Design Weekend at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the world’s leading museum of art and design, on the 23rd and 24th of September.

Microbial fuel cells are batteries that use the electron-carrying capabilities of certain bacteria found in mud to produce small electrical currents. Part of the design process involved the collaborators on the project filling clay pots with mud collected near Barry Island and wiring electrodes made from kitchen steel scrubbers to intermittently power two small robots that then attempt to get closer to each other and communicate.

Paul Granjon, who is a senior lecturer on the Fine Art degree programme at CSAD, is recognised for his practice of making robots for performances and exhibitions, while Michka Melo is a freelance bio-engineer based in Brussels and a member of the FoAm collective, a transdisciplinary network of laboratories combining work in art, science, and nature.

Paul and Michka both share a strong interest in sustainable living and alternative futures.

The Digital Design Weekend at the V&A will see artists, designers, engineers, technologists, makers and the public come together to share contemporary digital art and design, engage in conversations, learn about processes and explore how design, technology and creativity can help bridge ideas, generating new relationships between people, cities, environments and more.

Speaking about the ideas and inspiration behind the ‘mud robots’ project and its place at the V&A exhibition, Paul said: “I am more and more interested in using sustainable energy for my robotic artworks. Michka Melo introduced me to microbial fuel cells a couple of years ago and we have since developed the basic system that will be exhibited in the V&A.

"Power of the Mud finds its place in the V&A's Digital Design Weekend as it combines mud and advanced digital electronics. The clash between no-tech and hi-tech raises awareness about humble microbes and the jobs they do to sustain the ecosystem. The mud batteries also offer an innovative solution for powering small devices for art, design or domestic purposes.”