The Dome

A Radiosynthesis Based Ecosystem

Cargill Salt Dome  

March 2020

Indicidual project
Master’s stage two project.

Salt domes are mainly distributed in Europe and the United States and are used to store winter road deicing salt. Shortly after the vigorous development of energy and the popularization of electric heating roads, the backward road salt was abolished. On the contrary, nuclear waste produced after power generation lacked a place for storage. From the imagination of salt and dome, a salt dome could evolve into a place to store nuclear waste. This salt dome will not only be seen as a warehouse for waste, but also as a life.

At present, when human beings face changes in the natural environment, that is, the coming of the Anthropocene, they need to make choices. Humans usually think that they have damaged nature, but if we treat humans as part of nature, ‘damage’ can be considered ‘change’. It could be useful for some organisms and harmful to others. However, in any case, ‘change’ itself has no good or evil. In the field of human factor, in a more or less human-involved environment, a whole new type of ecosystem could be created. Different species together form a new symbiosis, just like the old symbiosis of the past.


For 500 years of waste storage, it needs to have an expressive power to protect itself. In half a thousand years, people may have forgotten the meaning of its existence, but it will continuously exsit. And the radioactive elements that people create today that take a long time to eliminate are also representative information of this era.

Since humans use the products of past creatures as compost and live on it, why can’t future humans and other creatures use the products of present humans as compost? Plastic is organic, nuclear waste is energy, and carbon dioxide contains carbon.

Radiosynthesis is a theoretically feasible production method. By capturing the energy emitted by ionizing radiation, a metabolism similar to photosynthesis is performed.

Obviously, in a dome that needs to be closed for 500 years, lighting will be one of the most difficult resources to obtain. Only plants such as Orobanche and mycoheterotrophic plants that feed on fungi or other plants can survive without light. Similarly, fungi rely on other sources of energy rather than photosynthesis to survive. Therefore, the relationship between fungal growth and light is not strong.

On the other hand, as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, the mushroom cloud is widely used, like witness of Nagasaki Bomb said “a giant mushroom”. The smoke produced by a firearm resembles a decomposer of an ecosystem, forming an interesting contrast.

Design Process

Form Purposal of Seeing Like Cats

From Halophytes to Fungal Dome

When thinking about salt dome, it is natural to consider about plants that can tolerate salts’ damage, which is called halophytes. Creatures can be found everywhere due to their strong vitality. It is arrogant anthropocentrism to think that nature will be unable to withstand the ‘damage’ caused by humans. The human effect is just like any other constant change for billions of years. It is a natural change process. This point was also mentioned in George Carlin’s speech Jammin’ in New York: The Planet Is Fine.

From the tissue structure of salt-tolerant plants, good construction ideas can be obtained. Multi-level support, epidermis and storage cells constitute a sophisticated and active tolerance structure.

Fungal Simulation

By using David Moore’s fungal simulation software, I can find out how different fungi grow and what could I choose to make up the dome ecosystem.


The Dome Ecosystem

Radiosynthesis is a theoretically feasible production method. By capturing the energy emitted by ionizing radiation, a metabolism similar to photosynthesis is performed. Ordinary photosynthesis converts light energy into chemical energy through chlorophyll, and Radiotrophic fungus converts radiation into chemical energy through melanin. In Ekaterina’s patent document, it is stated that the use of melanin paint extracted from Radiotrophic fungus can isolate radiation. It was also mentioned that Radiotrophic fungus might play an autotrophic role in early life on Earth.

Radiotrophic fungus serve as the producers of this system. They are the foundation of the entire ecosystem. Different forms of Radiotrophic fungus form the inner ring, which could be called the vascular bundle. The inner ring will be lightless and radiant.

Consumers and decomposers on the second level make their living on the products of the inner ring. By using the energy transmitted from the inner ring, a mycorrhizal system is formed. This level forms the middle ring.

Although the outermost consumers and decomposers also depend on the inner ring producers, there may also be producers similar to lichens at this level. They can perform photosynthesis through gaps in this concrete dome. Due to sunlight, rain and ventilation, the outer ring may have more heat, oxygen and moisture.

Field Guide

A Typical Section

Spieces Examples

The Possible Future(s)

What I hope to explore in this design is a brand-new ecosystem that may be generated due to human disturbance and natural adaptation in an environment where humans have caused significant changes. Here, I propose three assumptions. 

Assumption one, this ecosystem may be a polymer with an impedance effect, which gradually disappears as human disturbances go. Just as humans left the logging field and Ponderosa Pine reoccupied this place. 

Assumption two, this ecosystem may be a persistent aggregate that exists as a human companion species. Just like cattle serve as farmers, dogs serve as shepherds, this system has the function of dealing with pollution. 

Assumption three, this ecosystem may be a survivor after the mass extinction and gradually occupy a new niche. As after the disappearance of dinosaurs, mammals became the masters of the ground.

The File

The Diary

The Legend