Image: ARTIS-Micropia, Part of a Bigger Plan.

A better world starts with microbes

– Sept. 9, 2021

Food shortages, climate change, environmental degradation, a scarcity of resources. We live in a time that cries out for change. Fortunately, microbes are helping us with all kinds of sustainable solutions. From 4 October to 6 November, visitors to Micropia will discover the smart solutions microbes can use to secure our future. From healthier food and green biofuels, to circular materials, clean drinking water and less waste. "This temporary exhibition shows the endless possibilities of microbes. In this way we hope to raise awareness among our visitors about the importance of this smallest life on earth," said Jasper Buikx responsible for ARTIS-Micropia. "With the power of invisible life, we can do almost anything!"

Fungal Slippers

It is estimated that more than 95 percent of everything that lives is made up of microbes. They are at the beginning and end of every food chain, produce more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, recycle virtually everything, and keep animals and plants healthy by living in symbiosis with them. Not only are microbes essential in our past and present, they are also indispensable to our future. From algae fuel and bacterial plastic, to fungal slippers and a soil improver made from elephant dung. During A better world starts with microbes, Micropia is full of sustainable applications with microbes.

Smartphone full of bacteria?

One of the most promising microbes for the future is the cable bacterium. This chain-forming microbe lives in the mud of the ocean floor and has an 'electrical metabolism'. Together, they are able to generate energy from deeper layers of the seafloor. But what makes them really special is that they can transmit the generated electrons to each other super efficiently and over long distances. Much more efficiently than any man-made material. The superconducting fibers in cable bacteria can be used in all sorts of new materials and technologies. Who knows, maybe in a few years your smartphone will consist largely of bacteria! Filip Meysman, professor at the University of Antwerp and TU Delft, is researching the cable bacteria and discovered its unique conductive properties. Based on his research, artist Elizabeth Vermeulen made a unique work that can be seen in Micropia from 4 October onwards as part of this exhibition.

Smart microbes at home and in the classroom

During the temporary exhibition 'A better world begins with microbes', each child will receive their own experiment kit to take home at the end of their visit. With a number of online tutorials they can then make their own sustainable microbes visible at home.  Micropia has also developed unique educational materials for school classes, with which students from group 6 to 6 vwo can discover all about the endless possibilities of microbes for a better future.