Reverse Photosynthesis Machine

Bonsai is the art of perfectly replicating a scaled down version of nature, capturing the full beauty of the world. This project aimed to perfectly recreate the exact reverse process that allows most life on earth to function through the application of modern technological advances. The careful selection of parts was designed with no regard to efficiency, as with the process of nature, designing by slow, natural and random processes.


The process of photosynthesis is the conversion of light energy to chemical energy. This machine perfectly replicates the exact reverse process, converting chemical energy to light energy. A 9V battery powers a controller capable of carefully sequencing the emission of light, ensuring that it is a jarring and unpleasant viewing experience.

This project used mostly found or surplus materials from other projects, orders, and new house plants. The core is a cheap ebay Arduino Pro Mini, which the manufacturer must have incorrectly assembled (thus why they ended up on ebay). They were 5V, 8MHz, which is not a standard available option in the Arduino IDE. So it takes a small edit to boards.txt to allow programming these with the correct clock speed – this step is absolutely necessary since NeoPixels are so timing dependent. The current design uses 5 NeoPixels since that’s what I had left lying around, and used what was absolutely overkill magnet wire (20AWG, definitely make this with 22 or even 24, it was pretty stiff to twist everything together). The strands were twisted together as 4 core sets, and then those were twisted together into the tree shape. The ends were stripped (with an exacto blade) and soldered to the NeoPixels. The ends were then pinned out and 5V was connected together to the Vin pin of the Pro Mini and the GND. The input signal was connected to an arbitrary pin on the Pro Mini, and the pixels were all daisy chained together.

Currently, the code running on this is the Adafruit demo code for NeoPixel strips. I haven’t gotten around to writing any particularly flashy custom code for this yet, since the demo code looks fine.

Hope you enjoyed this project, it made me think about where technology has gone, the fact that we are putting so many resources into processing raw materials, producing all this incredible technology so that I can make an anti-plant.