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30 metres long E.coli sculpture

It is not every day that Cameron Balloons make a ‘germ’ that is 30 metres long and five-million times bigger-than-the-real thing!

by Hannah Cameron

30 metres long E.coli sculpture

This beautiful and thankfully inanimate ‘bug’ was suspended from the ceiling in the Winter Gardens, Sheffield to engage the public about the roles of biochemical sciences and techniques, enabling the microscopic world around us to be visible, helping to enlighten us to the importance of bacteria in our lives.

Luke Jerram Artist, with the University of Sheffield and funding from The Arts Council, commissioned Cameron Balloons to build the huge cold-air inflated E.coli structure which formed a central part of Sheffield University’s ‘Krebfest’ Exhibition. The aim was to make the sculpture much, much larger-than-life, to highlight the hard work these normally miniscule and sometimes fatal bacteria do, not only in the world of science but also in the wider world around us.

And to give you an idea of the enormous scale of the installation artwork… a person would need to be 9,000km tall if compared in size, to these normally microscopic bacteria. ‘In other terms, you could fit more than 1000 E.coli bacteria side-by-side across the head of a pin!’ explains, Hannah Cameron, Cameron Balloons.

The Ecoli is made of clear and printed PVC type fabric and a balloon fabric, featuring DNA artwork, with 115 pili (hair-like spikes) and five flagella which are the long tails which are characteristic of many types of motile (moving) bacteria.

The ‘Hidden Worlds’, shedding light on unseen wonders of nature Sheffield Krebfest event, also hosted a wide range of open activities and events such as scientist-led children’s craft, to Nobel prize-winner talks and liquid nitrogen ice-cream to ultra-violet ‘selfies.’

‘The enormous E.coli was suspended, making the whole structure visible from the ground. It was wonderfully awe-inspiring and helped increase awareness that bacteria are all around us - but luckily not usually that big….’ Explains, Nick Purvis, Cameron Balloons.

Luke Jerram’s Visible E.coli - Sheffield University Krebfest: Further statistics:

The two longest Flagellum are about 10 metres long & there are 115 pili (all at about a metre in length) these took nearly a week for Eileen, Marilyn and Liz, three of Cameron Balloons’ expert machinists to construct and attach to the main body of the E.coli before work could begin building up the main cell wall.

This sculpture is about as big as a blue whale, the largest creature to have ever lived on earth, which too can be about 30metres in length. E.coli bacteria can move fast, reportedly 15 times their length in a second. So if real bacteria were this big they would move at 540 km/hr!

‘I'm interested to find out what the public make of the artwork. Does the bacteria look scary, beautiful, comical or alien?’ Luke Jerram And to the Cameron Balloons Team. ‘All went well in Sheffield. Thanks for your hard work on the project. It was a great team effort. All the best,’ Luke Jerram

More of Luke Jerram’s other work, with stunning videos can be found here

Cameron Balloons also made Luke Jerram’s Park and Slide Bristol 2014 Park and Slide, was a giant 90m water slide presented on 4th May, on Park Street, Bristol for 'Making Sundays Special' with 96,573 requests for a 'ticket to slide' and more than 65,000 people came to watch on the day.

Lastly, here is a great slide animation featuring showing the real scale of the E.coli Bacterium by Learn.Genetics, the Genetic Science Learning Centre in the United States