Algae That Creates Light While Eating CO2

Written by Mike Awada on . Posted in Gadgets, Science

algae light

Carbon dioxide molecules have been scientifically proven to trap and retain heat. On Earth, this emulates a greenhouse effect of letting heat energy in, but not out.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most well-known ‘greenhouse gas’, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, methane and propane. The greater the number of these heat trapping molecules that exist, the more the Earth’s temperatures will continue to rise.

Trees naturally eat carbon dioxide, but on a per tree basis, they don’t consume much, about one ton in their lifetime. In order to keep the number of heat absorbing molecules down, we need more CO2 eaters here on the Earth. French biochemist Pierre Calleja has looked to algae for an innovation to curb this molecular issue.

Calleja has been studying single celled algae, known as microalgae, for over two decades. Algae has been on Earth longer than most species, with fossil records dating back 3 billion years! Algae produces more oxygen to us than all of the other plants in the world put together. We’re only now realizing the full array benefits that algae presents to our way of life. Algae produces energy through photosynthesis by combining sunlight, H2O, and CO2. Microalgae can be grown and cultivated in extremely adverse conditions, unlike most any other crop on Earth. These microalgae can produce up to 100x more biofuel than comparable energy crops, making it the target of much research and speculation as a future power fuel.

In this case, Calleja has taken advantage of microalgaes amazing properties to build a ‘microalgae lamp’ that not only produces light, but eats CO2. The algae rests in water, and produces harvestable energy through photosynthesis by absorbing CO2 and sunlight. This energy is funneled into a battery and stored, which is used to power the light at night. The light energy is conveniently released from the battery only when needed. The microalgae lamp produces a friendly byproduct, oxygen, while only one of these algae lights is able to suck up 1 ton of CO2 per year. To put that in perspective, one microalgae lamp absorbs as much CO2 in one year as a tree does in it’s lifetime!

These new street lamps in their current form have a stylish and futuristic vibe, but undoubtedly could be altered with different designs and colors. Customization would certainly boost the speed of acceptance of this green trend. The main questions to ask about this invention are how much will each of these cost, and what type of maintenance will they require. Will the water need to be replenished, and how frequently? What is the realistic scope of implementation; do we currently have the resources to install these algae lights worldwide?

The overarching question here is what level of algae implementation will we soon experience in our lives in the future? To what extent will algae fuel our vehicles and our homes? How long until we can grow our own fuel at home? Algae is also high in protein and essential vitamins; How extensive will the use of algae be in our diets? What else can algae do for us? Does algae fuel have a ceiling?


Tree Hugger

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Comments (3)

  • Sue

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    It’s lovely reading about all these great ideas but I’d love to see some of them become a commercial reality too! I would be the first in the queue to buy an algae lamp for my garden. I hope this guy makes a bundle of money from this clever idea and his research isn’t wasted

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  • Trekkie

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    Yeah, I would think the issue for the lights would be replenishing the water although this could likely be diminished by designing the container in such a manner as to maximize the rentention of water e.g. as it evaporates it is captured and released later, like rain. Something along the “stillsuit” described in the DUNE trilogy by Frank Herbert. Too bad if something becomes too efficient and saves resources and subsequently money, it tends to get shelved since the profit opportunity is also diminished.

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  • ipad

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