Although we typically associate the term with slimy green muck, the word algae actually represents a large, diverse group of simple microorganisms that have lived on Earth for billions of years. Various forms of algae have been around forever, but only recently have we discovered that they can be used as little green allies in combatting the environmentally detrimental CO2 emissions that are being expelled into the atmosphere daily.
French biochemist Pierre Calleja has come up with a very innovative solution to mitigate these carbon emissions—streetlamps filled with CO2-eating algae. Calleja foresees this cutting edge lighting infrastructure to be utilized in underground garages and on roadsides where they would be at their greatest carbon filtering potential due to the high level of carbon emissions—25 percent globally—associated with car exhaust. The first set was recently installed in a parking lot in Bordeaux.
The lamps themselves are tube-like translucent tanks filled with green algae. The lighting network operates on a battery that charges during the day by microalgal photosynthesis aided by sunlight, while the CO2 required to run the lamp is absorbed from atmospheric carbon emissions. Due to the fact that the lamps store the power produced not only by solar rays but also CO2, they could become one of the most efficient off-grid lighting suppliers that don’t run off solar power.
Not only do these innovative streetlights look cool, but if they one day become a regular fixture in urban areas, they could have a massive impact on air pollution in places where trees are scarce. Each lamp absorbs up to a ton of CO2 a year—more than 150 to 200 times more than a tree.
By Michelle Oznowicz