One of the oldest and biggest global events, the 35th World Expo is underway in Dubai after a year-long postponement. Among the 200 pavilions welcoming the Expo’s 130,000 projected daily visitors is Lithuania’s Openarium – an impressive exhibition space celebrating Lithuania’s scientific, cultural, and business achievements.
Openarium presents Lithuania to the world as an innovator open to co-creating a smart, sustainable future. Lithuanian-generated innovative solutions, presented in Dubai, range from DNA-based data storage to 3D printed snacks. Here are some of the exhibits that the Expo’s visitors from around the world can discover at the Lithuanian pavilion.
A miniature Burj Khalifa
The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa is the pride of Dubai. But to showcase the power of Lithuanian lasers, the country’s laser technology specialists shrunk the impressive skyscraper by 83,000 times.
The result is a 1.5 cm tall glass 3D model of Burj Khalifa on display at the Lithuanian Pavilion. Made using a femtosecond laser produced by Lithuanian laser company Femtika, the miniature Burj Khalifa could be even smaller – the size of the eye of a needle.
The laser technology behind this minuscule yet incredibly intricate object is subtractive micro-fabrication. If 3D printers add material to create a certain shape, this technology works the opposite way. When glass is exposed to a laser, it breaks easier, and unnecessary parts can be removed with utmost precision.
Lithuania has already become synonymous with world-leading laser technologies, so the growing global demand for lasers opens multiple possibilities of collaboration for the country’s laser industry. The micro- and sub-micro-sized components produced by Femtika’s lasers are used in the medical, automotive, biotechnology, space, and other industries around the globe.
Exploring the secrets of DNA
Openarium also highlights Lithuania’s renown within the life sciences field. Among the exhibits in the Lithuanian pavilion is one dedicated to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology dubbed the “gene scissors”.
The essence of this invention is the Cas9 protein, found in bacteria, that cuts up DNA like a pair of scissors. These scissors protect the bacteria from viruses but also make editing DNA as easy as fixing typos in an email.
Virginijus Šikšnys, a Lithuanian biochemist and a professor at Vilnius University, is one of the pioneering figures behind the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. He showed how Cas9 can be used to cut and paste genes together in a brand new way. This technology has incredible potential – since multiple illnesses stem from errors in human and animal DNA molecules, gene scissors might allow us to overcome diseases such as cancer, HIV, and many others.
In addition to editing the DNA chain, Lithuanian scientists also seek to turn it into a data storage solution for the future. With billions of gigabytes of data generated each day, extremely compact DNA molecules might be indispensable for storing digital data safely and sustainably.
In Dubai, visitors of the Lithuanian pavilion can see a capsule with a DNA molecule that can store around 4,000 times more data than all Netflix servers together. Lithuanian biotech company Genomika will use it to save the data of short greetings to Lithuania left by the visitors. And since it is estimated that 1 g of DNA can store up to 455 billion GB of data, there is no risk that Genomika will run out of space.
A world record in solar cell efficiency
Powered by solar panels, Openarium is entirely energy self-sufficient. And to highlight the importance of sustainable energy in Lithuania, the pavilion also displays record-breaking tandem solar cells.
The result of collaboration between Lithuanian scientists at Kaunas University of Technology and German researchers, the solar panels currently hold a world record in tandem solar cell efficiency, converting 29.15 percent solar energy into usable electricity.
Lithuanians synthesized the cell’s semiconductor material, composed of molecules that assemble themselves into layers as thin as one nanometre. One gram of this material can cover up to 1,000 m2 of surface, while using traditional technologies, the same amount produces only a couple of square centimetres of the solar element.
This scientific solution can greatly reduce the cost of solar energy extraction. Unsurprisingly, several global companies have already acquired licences to produce the material synthesized in Lithuanian laboratories.
3D printer can print your next snack
3D printing technology has been around for several decades, but printing food has sounded more like science fiction – until now. In Dubai, visitors of the Lithuanian pavilion can see the world’s only 3D food printer in action, and even try the printed results.
Lithuanian company Super Garden has developed a device that prints edible snacks in real-time. If you are craving a quick bite, you can simply insert a cassette and click the print button – a delicious, nutritious snack will be ready in seconds.
Made from freeze-dried product, cocoa butter, and pea protein isolate, they come in 200 flavours – from vegetables to different types of meat or even desserts. Super Garden is also ready to develop unique recipes for the pickiest of eaters.
World’s first digital collector coin
EU’s fastest growing financial technologies hub, Lithuania has rocketed to the top of Europe’s fintech scene due in big part to the forward-thinking regulation of the Bank of Lithuania. Lithuania’s financial regulator is known to embrace innovation, and one example of its progressive attitude is on display in Dubai.
Making international headlines upon its release in 2020, LBCOIN is the world’s first state-backed digital collectible coin. It consists of six digital tokens which, once assembled, can be exchanged into a physical silver collectors coin.
The silver coin depicts Lithuania’s Act of Independence of 1918 and its 20 signatories, and carries an unconventional nominal value of €19.18 to commemorate the date.
Using blockchain technology to celebrate its history, Lithuania is at the forefront of exploring the possibilities of virtual currencies. The experience the Bank of Lithuania gained in the LBCOIN project has already been applied to study the feasibility of digital euro.
A pOrtal that invites the world to connect
The long months of the global pandemic have been isolating, but Lithuanians found a way to connect people across borders in real time. One of the centrepieces of the Lithuanian pavilion in Dubai is a reduced version of the pOrtal – a digital bridge that allows you to meet people face-to-face without leaving your hometown.
Developed by Lithuanian investor Benediktas Gylys and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, the original pOrtal is a 11-ton concrete and steel ring that acts as a window to a faraway place. Connected to a twin installation in another city, the pOrtal’s large screens broadcast live images that enable us to smile, wave, or blow a kiss to a stranger no matter how many kilometres away.
The first pOrtal, set up in May 2021, connects the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to the Polish city of Lublin. But the team behind the project is planning to build dozens of such installations across the globe, creating an international #pOrtal Cities Network and spreading the message of unity worldwide.
The smaller scale copy of the pOrtal, on display in Dubai, will serve as a ‘window to Lithuania’ during the Expo’s thematic weeks.
For the six months of the Expo, Openarium will present the best of science and innovation that Lithuania can offer to the world, helping to strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones. Expo 2020 Dubai will welcome visitors until 31 March 2022. You can find the Lithuanian pavilion in the Expo’s Sustainability district.