[Global] Algae is blessed with qualities such as bioluminescence—the ability to glow in the dark—and photosynthesis, which is aprocess used by plant life that converts solar energy into chemical energy, the latter of which can be extracted by scientists. In addition to those fabulous properties, algae cleans the air and provides food for all manner of living beings, including humans. This remarkable natural resource is more powerful than anything people could come up with, plus the use of it doesn’t damage the environment because it can be rapidly regenerated.
Below are ten of the most innovative algae-powered designs out there, starting from small scale all the way up to city-sized.
1. Algae-Powered Dinosaur Nightlight
The Dino Pet from California-based company Yonder Biology uses algae’s bioluminescence to show children that when we work in harmony with nature, great things can happen. Made from polyethylene plastic, the dinosaur-shaped container houses dinoflagellate algae; one of many types of algae with bio-luminescent properties. Because the algae is a living organism, Dino Pets actually depend on their owners to survive. Daily sunlight is a must, and special dino food is added once every 1-3 months to keep the algae happy. Proper care and feeding could potentially allow the toy to last forever.
2. Algae-Powered LED Light Bulb
Along a similar line as the Dino Pet, designer Gyula Bodonyi has harnessed the power of green algae in a light bulb, bringing green power to the public on a more user-friendly scale. With the Algaebulb, algae powers a single LED that’s activated by a tiny air pump and hydrophobic material to create a teeny-tiny power house for light. The tear-shaped bulb is made up of an air pump, LED, hidrophob container, PC Shell, and air outlet. The system sucks in carbon dioxide and water through the pump near the E27 screw-top, and as the air passes through the bulb, chlorella pyrenoidosa spirulina microalgae are fostered. Algae gives off oxygen when it flourishes, which in turn powers the tiny LED inside. Although small in size, if AlgaeBulb is employed on a large scale, it holds the potential to save a significant amount of energy. Aside from providing a light source with renewables, the bulb also sucks up carbon dioxide, helping to alleviate greenhouse gases one bulb at a time.
3. Algae Musical Jelly
French students Marianne Cauvard and Raphaël Pluvinage have come up with a fantastically weird project that uses agar-agar—red algae—jelly to create music. Dubbed Noisy Jelly, the project involves cooking colored jelly with a few grams of algae powder and then molding it into different geometric shapes. The shapes are then placed on a sensor board that creates music when each one is touched! Technically the game board is a capacitive sensor that creates different sounds according to the shape of the figures, salt concentration, and finger pressure.
4. The Algae Curtain
The Algae Curtain-a is a living, photosynthesising textile installation that was developed as part of the Energy Futures Project by studio Loop.pH in Lille, France. The design is made up of transparent tubes knotted into large architectural drapes and suspended in sunny windows. Living algae is pumped through the textile, soaking up the daytime sun and photosynthesizing to produce a bio-fuel that can be used locally. Microscopic algae grow ten times faster than trees and can produce huge amounts of oil through photosynthesis. The Algae Curtain-a provides a permanent support infrastructure for the “Future Fruits” (the harvest of the energy) and together form micro-ecologies networked with a tangle of living plastic. The capsules can be considered an evolution of the everyday battery, but grown from living matter to be harvested.
5. “Algaerium” Living Surfaces and Textiles
Architect and textile designer Marin Sawa has created a series of living surfaces and textiles that both cultivate and produce green energy in the form of algae. The Algaerium was designed to create and explore algae as a spatial installation in urban conditions. By working with the photosynthetic method, Sawa combines algae and light to produce stunning color systems that react and respond to the surrounding environments. She explains: “The project proposes utilization of algae’s biological attributes such as photosynthesis and bioluminescence as beneficial design solutions in response to our contemporary ‘environmental consciousness’.”
6. Algae-Powered Bio-photovoltaic Panels
UK designers are working with Cambridge University researchers to develop bio-photovoltaic (BPV) devices that generate renewable energy from the photosynthesis of algae and moss. Those plants are fast-growing organisms that require little more than a bit of sun and water to stay alive. While these organisms are in the midst of photosynthesizing, energy can be extracted from them to power photovoltaic panels. The designers believe that this technology could compete with silicon-based solar panels within the next 5-10 years, which is compelling since solar panels are often criticized for being resource-heavy to develop. Applications for BPVs are numerous: moss in a table can be harvested directly to power a lamp, an array of algae-powered solar panels can be used for domestic consumption, and a near-shore generator can harvest desalinated water.
7. Portable Algae Breathing Pavilions
Designed by Ádám Miklósi, Chlorella combines algae photosynthesis with oxygen therapy to create a fresh air pavilion for future urban environments. The project is inspired by the Russian ‘CELSS’ (Controlled Ecological Life Support System) study in which chlorella algaes recycled exhaled Co2 from humans into oxygen through photosynthesis supported by artificial lighting. The structure utilizes semi-transparent teflon membranes to create a ‘semi-disconnection’ from the outside world by reducing noise, voices, and visual impressions. The pavilion acts as an urban shelter against outside air pollution, and the heart of the design is comprised of a series of photobioreactors consisting of a network of transparent plastic tubes. The photobioreactors are filled with 5 cubic meters of air-purifying, oxygen-producing algae. In the center of the space there is an algae fountain surrounded by ten rail-bound relaxation chairs placed in a circular fashion. Artificial lighting is supported by solar panels placed on top of the pavilion to keep energy use to a minimum.
8. Algae Fuel-Powered Aircraft
European aerospace company EADS, or Airbus, has invented an algae fuel-powered aircraft. The company’s twin-engine Diamond DA 42 runs partially on biofuel made from 100 percent algae. The plane requires 1.5 fewer litres of fuel per hour than conventional fueling systems because of the algae’s ultra-high energy content. EADS has high hopes for algae-powered planes in the future, but the company hasn’t yet revealed when these hybrid planes might be commercially available.
9. Algae-Powered Building
Splitterwerk Architects have designed the world’s first algae-powered building, which is clad with a bio-adaptive façade of microalgae. To create the façade, the building is covered in bio-reactive louvers that enclose the algae. These louvers allow the algae to survive and grow more quickly than they would otherwise while also providing shade for the interior of the building. Additionally, the bio-reactors trap the heat energy created by the algae, which can then be harvested and used to power the building. Photosynthesis is driving a dynamic response to the amount of solar shading required, while the micro-algae growing in the glass louvres provide a clean source of renewable energy.
10. Algae-Powered Eco-City
Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, co-founders of EcoLogicStudio in London, have begun exploring the possibilities of algae on a large scale by planning an eco-city in Simrishamn, Sweden. Their Algae Farm plan will be an entire town centered on algae production, research, and tourism, and incorporates the harvesting and use of algae in a number of areas around the town. “Crane Greenhouses” that resemble upside-down trees are planned for unused ports around the coast. Canopies of ETFE pedals will hold small bags that act as tiny greenhouses for algae production. Algae will also be grown specifically for food and oil in “Migro Towers” near other lakes and bodies of water. The towers double as relaxing social areas for tourists on hikes, and as safe nesting areas for birds. Old barns around the region are imagined to become state-of-the-art algae farming facilities while the natural springs will serve as water filtering gardens that will not only monitor water pollution but even offer spa treatments. Visitors can navigate through algae sites by a connected bike path that doubles as a cross-country ski course in the winter months.
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