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French Biochemist Designs Algae-Powered, CO2-Absorbing Lamp

French Biochemist Designs Algae-Powered, CO2-Absorbing Lamp

What if fighting global warming were as simple as flipping a switch and turning on the lights? This may soon be a reality. French biochemist Pierre Calleja has designed a CO2-absorbing streetlamp. Powered by microalgae, the lamp could absorb as much as a ton of carbon from the air every year. That’s the same amount absorbed by 150-200 trees.

Calleja’s lamp consists of a lighted aquarium filled with CO2-eating algae, which draw the greenhouse gas from the air — even in dark or closed environments like an underground parking garage. Even though the lamp has been installed in a few places, they’re not ready for mass production yet. Apparently, part of the problem has simply been obtaining funding for the project – Calleja says that many of his partners have been reluctant to commit much money to this experimental technology.

In the following video, Calleja explains how the lamp works and his hopes for the future. You’ll also get to see the lamp in action:

What do Care2 readers think — if these were to become widely available, would you install a carbon-munching algae-lamp in your home?


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Photo Credit: Gordon Wrigley

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12:34PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Awesome info!!

12:33PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Awesome info!!

5:45AM PST on Dec 10, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

11:58PM PDT on May 18, 2012

Also, yes, it will get released into the atmosphere again - but saying 'I'm not sure of this', is like saying 'I'm not sure if it's a good idea to replant all of the trees we cut down because eventually they'll die and the carbon will be released into the air again'. Yes, but not all at once. It will be released gradually. Carbon is energy. A dying tree or dying algae will release CO2 from itself just like you do. It won't release a lifetime worth of the amount that it inhaled because that's converted into other forms of energy for the organism over its lifetime; it doesn't bank it. So quit getting your panties in a bunch. It's a good idea.

11:56PM PDT on May 18, 2012

To people saying 'but plants and trees absorb CO2 too', nobody is forgetting that. The issue is that these lamps absorbs the same amount of CO2 that 200 grown trees can in a year (in fact, the amount of CO2 this thing absorbs in a year is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide a single tree absorbs in its ENTIRE lifetime). So while yes, plants can absorb CO2, and it's still pretty to have plants around, for efficiency sake in reversing the damage we've done to the environment, having millions of these lamps all over the world would be helpful.

6:02AM PDT on May 16, 2012

I'm skeptical. Sounds good on the surface - but the full cycle of this device is not explained. Granted - algae absorb CO2 and light - but then what? The algae surrounding the light source create turbidity and absorb preferentially in the red and blue, thus the initially bright white lamp emits a dim green light. The algae use the photosynthesized CO2 (and water) to make carbohydrates and (ultimately) more algae. So, who goes around to these lamps and harvests the algae? What is it used for? How is the algae growth and resultant water turbidity controlled? If the end goal is to use the algae to make electricity somehow, or if the algae is in any way decomposed thus releasing the captured CO2, then this is a really bad violation of the second law of thermodynamics (the engineer's way of saying that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch) and yet another Rube Goldberg perpetual motion machine.

1:05PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Great idea! I'd buy one, but let's not forget that plants also absorb CO2. But in urban settings where plants wouldn't grow, this has lots of potential.

8:24PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012


8:53AM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

I'm all for going "green", but this product seems vulnerable. What happens when it freezes, gets vandalized, breaks? How do you turn it OFF???? Algae have a great potential, but this application doesn't seem practical. I'm more impressed with using algae for biofuel production. I have to agree with Robert O.

9:51PM PDT on Mar 22, 2012

Thanks for the article and video.

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