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Planet Care

35: Buildings that absorb carbon dioxide

Problem:

The high levels of CO₂ in cities need to be reduced, captured and stored.

Solution:

Living architecture like an algae curtain that can absorb as much carbon dioxide as 20 large trees.


Dr Marco Poletto and Claudia Pasquero of EcoLogicStudio in East London collaborated with University College London, UK and the University of Innsbruck to create a digitally designed and custom-made bioplastic flat photobioreactor that uses daylight to feed living micro-algal cultures and releases faint bio-luminescent shades at night.

Unfiltered city air enters the curtain from the bottom, and as it travels up through the liquid in the tubes, the micro-algae within capture the carbon dioxide molecules. This process of photosynthesis also produces oxygen, which is released from the top of the unit.

One curtain’s ability is equivalent to a mature tree. The main material of the hardware is ETFE, a hi-tech polymer with exceptional transparency, durability, fire retardant properties and recyclability. Another beneficial by-product of the process is biomass, which the algae grow from the sequestered carbon, and which can be burnt for energy or turned into bioplastic material, such as that used to make the curtain.

EcoLogicStudio’s first large-scale design for the Milan EXPO 2015, was an interactive pavilion containing living microalgal cultures that oxygenated air and provided shade from the sun.

In 2018 an installation of bio-curtains, composed of 53 x 22 ft (16.2 x 7 m) modules and dubbed “Photo.Synth.Etica”, was installed at the Customs and Revenue House in Dublin, during the Irish capital’s Climate Innovation Summit, created in collaboration with climate-KIC, EU’s most prominent climate innovation initiative.

Another installation was set up outside the House of Nobility Palace in Helsinki as part of that city’s Fashion Week. Here they absorbed approximately 2 lb (1 kg) of CO₂ per day, equivalent to that of 20 large trees.

In 2020, London will see its first Photo.Synth.Etica on display, as part of an exhibition at The Building Centre in June. Bio-curtains would have to be adopted on a very large scale to start making any meaningful effect.

Find out more: ecologicstudio.com   •  photosynthetica.co.uk

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