Editorial Feature

Clean Technology: Microalgae Lamps

The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is increasing, which has an adverse affect on the environment. High levels of CO2 increase the temperature of the atmosphere leading to global warming.

Reducing CO2 emissions quickly seems to be generally accepted. However, implementing such emission cuts, costs a lot of money and time. French biochemist Pierre Calleja has now come up with a way of cutting down carbon emissions by using algae as a potential source for eliminating CO2 from air.

Algae are large, diverse groups of microorganisms and have been living on the Earth for billions of years. Although algae are commonly seen in the form of thin green sludge accumulated on the surface of a stagnant pond; kelp and seaweed are also members of the algae family.

Algae can produce more oxygen when compared to all the other plants in the world put together. Algae produces energy through photosynthesis by combining H2O, CO2 and sunlight.

In recent years, algae's potential as an energy source has received enormous attention.

Calleja has spent several years developing a lamp that feeds on the huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The key ingredient to this lamp is the single-celled algae, known as microalgae. Unlike any other crop on the Earth, microalgae can be grown and cultivated in extremely adverse conditions. These microalgae can produce more biofuel than comparable energy crops, which makes it the target of most of the research works on future power sources.

How Microalgae Lamp Works?

Calleja's lamp consists of a tube containing microalgae-filled water as well as a battery system. The lamp can charge during the day through photosynthesis that is driven by the sun and nutrients. The stored power is then used at night to power lights.

However, as algae can also produce energy from carbon, sunlight is not required for the lamp to operate.

The lamps represent a viable electricity-free lighting solution even for locations where there is less natural light, such as underground parking garages.

This works by absorbing all the CO2 emissions from the cars in the parking garages.

Benefits of Microalgae Lamp

CO2 molecules have been proven to trap and retain heat. This emulates a type of greenhouse effect of letting heat energy in and not out of the Earth. Trees naturally consume carbon dioxide. They consume just about one ton of CO2 in their lifetime.

Calleja has taken advantage of microalgae properties to develop a microalgae lamp that not only produces light, but also consumes CO2. The lamp releases light energy stored in the battery only when needed.

It produces an eco-friendly byproduct, oxygen. One microalgae lamp can suck up 1 ton of CO2 per year, which means one lamp absorbs as much CO2 in one year as a tree does in its lifetime.

An entire city equipped with with these green lamps will have the ability to absorb enough carbon dioxide equivalent to that absorbed by a big forest.

Another key benefit of this lamp is that algae can act as a biofuel when separated from the water. Hence, every time the water in the lamp needs changing, the waste algae can still be used as a fuel and the water can be recycled and used for other purposes.

Conclusion

Microalgae lamps have a stylish appearance and a futuristic vibe, and can be altered with different colors and designs. Customization would certainly increase the speed of acceptance of this green technology.

There are questions around the cost and practicability of the lamps; possible effects they may have, or whether they actually could absorb a lot of the Earth's excess carbon dioxide.

Nevertheless, lets hope that someday in the future, lights that power our cities could absorb excess CO2.

References

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.

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