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The glass glowing palm is a permanent exhibit of the Institute of Microbiology of the CAS at the World Exhibition in Dubai.

The project, called Alga Oasis, artistically represents a model of a photobioreactor for growing algae which provide a nutritionally rich source of food. It can be seen in the Czech Pavilion at Expo 2020.
Microscopic algae are essentially a small factory producing valuable substances for modern biotechnology. Many of today's problems such as the lack of quality food can be solved with algae. The idea of presenting this process to the public in an artistic form was born. The proposal fitted well with the concept of the Czech pavilion "Connecting minds, building the future".
"The exhibit is really exceptional, both in terms of the idea and scientifically and artistically. It perfectly represents the cutting-edge research of the Academy of Sciences and Czech science as a whole," says Eva Zažímalová, President of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
The object responds to the viewer
The production of Alga Oasis (alga, Latin for algae, Oasis) took over a year and each element is unique, made specifically for this project to withstand the extreme conditions of the Arabian Peninsula's outdoor environment.
Alga Oasis is inspired by photobioreactor technology. It is a freestanding object made of circularly arranged glass tubes that form a dynamically shaped stylized palm tree that emits light. A liquid bubbles inside the glass tubes, with bubbles being created where the viewer moves. The object also responds to the viewer by changing the light scheme.
The action inside the exhibit is explained by a central strip of light with pictorial light illustrations. Animation is also included and can be viewed on personal devices connected to the internet.
"It is a great honour for the Institute of Microbiology of the Academy of Sciences and its workplace in Třeboň that we have the opportunity to participate in this prestigious exhibition," notes Jiří Hašek, director of the workplace.
The author of Alga Oasis is multimedia artist Michal Kohút, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. His work combines approaches between artistic techniques and technologies from different disciplines. His typical handwriting is a combination of dynamism with subtlety and attention to detail.
The time of microscopic algae as a food source may come with the increasing number of people on the planet or the deteriorating conditions for traditional agriculture due to climate change. Even if microscopic algae will not become a mass food replacing cereals in the next few years, they still have great potential for humans.
In addition to Alga Oasis, the Czech Academy of Sciences is represented at the World Expo by other institutes. The main exhibit in the Czech pavilion is the S.A.W.E.R. system which produces water from dry desert air using only solar energy. This then irrigates a garden planted in the Dubai sands and demonstrates how to create an oasis in the desert. The desert cultivation device was developed by the Institute of Botany of the CAS.
In February 2022, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic will take up the baton in a rotating exhibition with the theme Energy the Smart Way. For example, there will be an interactive model of a tokamak - a device for producing energy by thermonuclear fusion - a concept of a ship that disposes of waste from plastic islands in the seas with a minimum of unprocessable waste. (4.10.2021)
Dubai Expo begins. Czech scientists will transform water from the air
We can't fight the wind or the rain but we can make water from air and make the desert bloom. Visitors to the Czech pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai will be able to see for themselves. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the World Expo will start a year late. Czech scientists have also been preparing for it carefully and for a long time and one of the biggest attractions has been prepared by the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU). Miroslav Vosátka from the Botanical Institute of the CAS worked closely with the S.A.W.E.R. (Solar Air Water Energy Resource) project from the beginning.
Earthworms are slowly weaving their way through the dark layer of compost and working hard to convert kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer. Thousands of tailworms and other miniature animals that are not visible at first glance are helping them. But their combined efforts in a small container called a vermicomposter are vital for the future greening of the desert. "The result is a compost leachate which we call earthworm castings in our working language and we add it as a natural fertiliser to one of our experimental beds," says Miroslav Vosátka in the greenhouse of the Pruhonice campus of the Botanical Institute of the CAS.
In addition to earthworms, the sandy soil is fertilised with algae suspension. This is also produced on site - in a so-called photobioreactor. It can be imagined as a long stainless steel cascading table on which ivy-green water flows continuously. Special freshwater microalgae proliferate there, they are able to take up nutrients from the waste water, bind them organically and then slowly release them to the plants.

"In Dubai, we want to show that we can grow plants in sand. Here in the greenhouse we are trying it on a smaller scale and the results are very promising," adds Miroslav Vosátka. There are two rows of sand boxes in the middle of the greenhouse. In the left-hand boxes there are healthy-looking herbs and grasses, while in the right-hand boxes there are less well-grown pieces of the same plants. Mostly alfalfa, sorghum, lavender, rosemary and thyme but there are plans to experiment with tomatoes, leeks and other vegetables. The difference between the right and left beds is the type of fertiliser and the way they are watered.
The left side is nourished by organic nutrition consisting of compost leachate, algae suspension, various bacteria and endophytic and mycorrhizal fungi (symbiotic fungi, in the first case in the weeds of the plants, in the second case in the root system). The right side of the bed is nourished inorganically with a traditional agricultural fertiliser abbreviated NPK (containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).
Desert garden without rain
The essential difference between the two rows is the method of irrigation. The left 'natural' row of boxes is irrigated by a subsurface drip system, while the right 'traditional' bed is sprinkled by a shower of water above the soil. The principle of drip irrigation, where water is slowly and gradually brought directly to the roots, was invented by the Israelis and is successfully used in local agriculture. They have managed to save a lot of water (reportedly 50%) that is wasted and evaporated using conventional methods.
A common method of irrigation in countries with a lack of regular rainfall is the flood method. It consists in flooding the dug furrows around the plants with water. Its history goes back to ancient civilisations around the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the area where Iraq is now and it is still used in many parts of the world today although it is very wasteful.
The entire Czech pavilion at the Expo in Dubai should be self-sufficient in water. The device for extracting water from the air was designed by experts from the University Centre for Energy Efficient Buildings and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague. Very simply put, it is a large cooling apparatus that produces water by condensing hot desert air. The S.A.W.E.R. plant should be able to extract about 300 litres per day from Dubai's air. The water thus obtained will be used in the pavilion for cooking, washing, flushing and for irrigating the greenery.
"The original idea was to create a mock-up of a tunnel under the desert so that visitors could admire the root system of the plants we would plant from below. We are also planning transparent tubes, like columns, with the root systém and video loops showing the accelerated growth of roots or the decomposition of waste into compost," says Miroslav Vosátka. The vegetation should have several tiers, with the lower herbs growing in the shade of the larger palms. All of this will begin to be prepared and planted on site later this year. The earthworms and tailworms from the vermicomposter will also be present and with their help the sandy soil of Dubai will hopefully turn beautifully green. 

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