Scientists develop algae bio-curtains to capture carbon as an alternative to urban trees

Team of architects and scientists have created algae bio-curtains in order to absorb carbon dioxide in the air. Termed as an alternative to urban trees, architects in East London’s EcoLogicStudio created the technology in collaboration with University College London and University of Innsbruck, in order to make the cities greener and to save the planet.

The algae bio-curtains could change the look of the cities everywhere and can help save the planet. The bio-curtains can be fitted anywhere outside the buildings, these are filled with algae which is taken from their natural home and is then treated in a lab. Before transforming them in curtains, gel is added to them, in order to optimize their performance.

According to experts, algae are naturally efficient in turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. When the sun shines on the curtains, polluted city air is drawn in from the bottom of the curtain, and through a process of photosynthesis, single cell algae absorbs carbon and oxygen which is then released at the top.

According to a statement by the inventors, the curtains are an effective way to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the cities. “This is effectively an extremely efficient way to introduce photosynthesis within the built environment,” commented Dr Marco Poletto, from the EcoLogicStudio.

In terms of air cleaning power, Poletto claims that the functioning of these curtains is equivalent to any mature tree. The urban curtains have been installed in Dublin’s Customs and Revenue House, in addition to Helsinki’s House of Nobility.

The creators of the bio-curtains are however of the opinion that the curtains need to be adopted on a very large scale, in order to assure that they make a meaningful impact.

“It’s law, so UK is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. London has got it in its plan. We have to, at the same time, reduce the amount of carbon we emit, but also actively absorb,” adds Poletto.

The report also draws attention to some drawbacks of the bio-curtains in comparison to urban trees. For instance the curtain material is currently only 70% bio-degradable, whereas the rest is plastic. Moreover, as the algae grows it needs to be harvested on a regular basis and this process requires maintenance.  This is also one of the reasons the curtains fall to be more expensive than trees, although they consume less space.

However, scientists involved in the invention also believe the project is a way humans are changing their relationship to nature.

“CO2 is negative per se, we cannot breathe it as human beings, but it is a nutrient for micro algae. So we can make an alliance with micro algae to be able to interact with the air of the city, with the metabolism of the city and change it in a positive manner,” according to Claudia Pasquero from EcoLogicStudio.