This Freeform LED Blinky Displays the SARS-CoV-2 Virus RNA Sequence

Paul Klinger has used current data to build a freeform sculpture that blinks the RNA sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Cameron Coward
a month agoLights / Art / 3D Printing

By now, you’re obviously well-acquainted with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If you’re not already under enforced quarantine, then you’re probably at least practicing social distancing as much as you can. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) virus, which is just one of a variety of related viruses. The SARS-CoV-2 virus’ RNA has been sequenced to help fight the virus. Paul Klinger has used that information to build a freeform LED blinky that displays the SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA sequence.

Klinger is the same creator of 3D-printed DNA sequence art piece that we featured a couple of months ago. That fantastic sculpture lit up to display Klinger's own DNA sequence. This new project works in a similar way, but displays the SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequence instead of the Klinger's DNA sequence. The structure of the freeform blinky sculpture is designed to look like the virus itself, with LEDs jutting out around the body of the virus. The structure was made from thick, solid copper wire, and the various electronic components — aside from the LEDs — are tucked away inside of the body.

The most important of those components is a Microchip ATtiny1614 microcontroller. That was programmed in C to read the SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequence and then light up the LEDs that correspond to the nucleotides in the sequence. Power comes from a single CR2032 coin cell battery. Klinger says the total power draw is between 1-5mA (depending on which LEDs are lit), and the CR2032 battery is enough to keep the freeform circuit running continuously for about a day. With so many of us isolating ourselves at home during this pandemic, projects like this are a great way to pass the time.

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