A novelty in France: a city illuminated by marine organisms

Rambouillet is the first city in France to test bioluminescence. Mayor Véronique Matillon inaugurates the first piece of furniture illuminated by marine bacteria, alongside the founder of the start-up, Glowee, Sandra Rey. (© 78actu. Philippe Cohen)

” Is it what? An aquarium ? asks Jocelyne, a resident intrigued by a blue-green light that illuminates Place Thomé in rambouillet (Yvelines), opposite the aptly named concert hall, La Lanterne.

This futuristic-shaped panel where a liquid is stirred continues to arouse the curiosity of Rambolitanos.

Because I live inside marine bacteriawhich, like fireflies and fireflies, produce light.

It’s the magic of bioluminescence !

Abyssal organisms naturally light up

For the first time in Francethis technology has been being tested since Friday, January 20, outdoors by the start-up Glowee.

It is the fulfillment of a partnership signed between Glowee and the city of Rambouillet in 2019.

The municipality invested 100,000 euros to help the start-up to produce a prototype and, above all, to try it out in the cultural heart of a city.

For 8 years, Glowee has been developing in its laboratories in Evry (Essonne), the best way to cultivate marine organisms from the abyss to light the cities of tomorrow in a different way.

An alternative to traditional urban lighting

The founder of Glowee, Sandra Rey intends to propose a solution in tune with the times, an alternative to LED and conventional poles to light cities in a natural and sustainable way.
If Glowee had carried out the first tests on campuses and in the waiting room of Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, never, she would have developed a piece of furniture intended for living abroad.

How biological light can revolutionize lighting

80% of marine organisms emit photons of light. A biochemical reaction caused by a protein, luciferin.
How do you mimic this fascinating natural phenomenon of sea creatures and bacteria?
It was based on this question that, in 2013, Sandra Rey, then a student at the School of Design, won an award for a project that combined design with biology.
Driven by this idea and the possibilities of bioluminescence, she envisions her company: Glowee.
In partnership with researchers, his start-up was born in 2014, to try to find a concrete application of bioluminescence, from well-being to urban lighting.
At Evry, with a team of twenty people, it multiplies tests in ephemeral installations and experiments with relaxation rooms based on bioluminescence.
In 2019, it signed its first contract with the city of Rambouillet to achieve concrete application within the urban network.
It took two and a half years to develop the street furniture and its autonomous operation.
“We’ve made progress in terms of intensity by improving the bacteria’s performance. This piece of furniture makes it possible to see the bioluminescence from 600m away, at the end of the square. It makes it possible to guide, signal and highlight. The objective is to illuminate squares, pedestrian crossings, areas bordering with the nature”.
At a time when we want to fight against light pollution, Glowee brings an alternative: “A raw material of biological and biodegradable origin, made from microorganisms that can be cultivated in the laboratory. The solutions are in nature, it is a living library capable of provide us with solutions in many matters”, says Sandra Rey. The first test is “a step towards making people want to see this light in our everyday lives”.

In the place of Rambouillet (Yvelines), organisms coming from the depths of the oceans are fed with air and nutrients to encourage them to give the most beautiful light possible to passers-by in the town of Yvelines.

A real challenge to bring this light to life outdoors

“It is the first time that bioluminescence is permanently installed in an urban environment. It may seem simple, but it’s a real challenge because it’s a light that’s alive! Marine bacteria!

sandra kingFounder and Creator of Glowee

“They are signaling furniture that guide, highlight. We wanted to mix the imagination of the bud with that of the periscope, a link between nature and the light that comes from the bottom of the oceans”, explains Sandra Rey, founder of the start-up Glowee during the inauguration, in the presence of hundreds of inhabitants.

“The challenge is to test bioluminescence outdoors and the reactions of the public”, says the founder of Glowee who, after the experience, intends to launch around fifty bioluminescent projects, in different forms of furniture throughout France: seats, lighting of monuments or parking modules for bicycles.

A French innovation for the cities of the future

For the mayor of Rambouillet, Véronique Matillon:

It is a source of pride to offer French researchers the possibility of testing such an innovative project, of embarking in the saddle to develop their project throughout France.

Veronique MatillonMayor of Rambouillet (Yvelines)

“An innovation that also concerns the quality of our environment and awakens a curiosity that has the virtue of asking us the right questions for our future, and telling us that from living beings, from marine organisms, we can come up with solutions to a sustainable city.” explains the mayor of Rambouillet.

The conquered inhabitants: “Super innovative and poetic”

Rambouillet (Yvelines) is the first city in France to test life-size bioluminescence.  the locals are fascinated.
Rambouillet (Yvelines), is the first city in France to test life-size bioluminescence. The locals are fascinated. (© 78actu. Philippe Cohen)

On Friday night, the audience was won over: “It’s beautiful and comforting,” confided Ludivine, a schoolgirl.

“Intriguing to know that it is alive and comes from the bottom of the oceans”, added Séverine.

“It is super innovative and timely in relation to new energy needs. Having our natural lighting linked to marine resources is fascinating,” says Céline. For the resident of Rambouillet, seeing her city square immersed in bioluminescent light is also “very poetic. It reminds me of the images from the movie Avatar! »

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