Creating a mesmerizing DNA lamp for under $30


You can’t help but stare this project. 


Year after year, the Dark Room at Maker Faire Bay Area showcases some of the most engaging and stimulating visual presentations we’ve ever come across. Between the glorious glowing of lamps, the dancing of robotic lights and the brilliantly embedded garments strutting the runway, the room is a sight to be seen. And, well, this recent project from Portuguese Maker João Duarte would certainly fit right in.

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With the help of 3D printing, Duarte was able to bring the mesmerizing DNA Lamp to life for less than $30 in supplies. A vast majority of the device’s parts were 3D-printed in black PLA filament with the exception of its acrylic tube and the electronics housed inside its base. He also used white glow in the filament for the helix in order to make it stand out more under UV light, and of course, to give it a nice green glow in the dark.

Merely a beginner when it comes to 3D design, the Maker turned to Autodesk’s Tinkercad software to help devise the project. Duarte employed two 3D printers for the job, his Prusa i3 that he had built himself and a LulzBot TAZ 4 from his local Makerspace. In total, the helix lamp took roughly 14 hours from start to finish.

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As for the electronics, the Maker implemented an electric motor to provide the slow rotation of the DNA helix inside of the acrylic tubing. UV LEDs are embedded at the top and bottom of the tube, creating a fading effect when the lamp is turned on. Meanwhile,, a barebones Arduino Uno (ATmega328) handles the motor and the LEDs.

Beyond that, the Maker wanted to be able to manage the LEDs, power and the rotation of the helix. To accomplish this, he added a push button that selects the operation mode of the lamp, which of course is powered by the ATmega328.

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In the end, Duarte wrote some code that enabled the UV LEDs to produce its slick visual effects, as the helix fluctuated between fluorescent hues to “give it the weird feeling of a mysterious evil experience or that it is alive somehow.” As you can see in the video below, the LEDs offer a pretty hypnotizing blue and purple glow.

Want one of your own? Head over to the project’s Instructables page here.

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