Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and cool the planet by sucking up carbon emissions through photosynthesis. You all know that trees are important tools in the fight to stave off global warming. However, it may come as a surprise to you that algae play an equally significant role in the fight against climate change.
Austin-based start-up, Hypergiant Industries, has developed a prototype for an environmental air purifier – the Eos Bioreactor. The algae-based bioreactor can pull two tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year through a process known as carbon sequestration using artificial intelligence.
This algae-based carbon-sequestration solution is 400x more effective than trees, meaning one 3’x3′ x7′ cube can sequester as much carbon dioxide as an acre of trees. Ben Lamm, CEO of Hypergiant Industries, told Inverse:
“We’ve been thinking about climate change solutions in only a very narrow scope. Trees are part of the solution but there are so many other biological solutions that are useful. Algae is much more effective than trees at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, and can be used to create carbon negative fuels, plastics, textiles, food, fertilizer and much more.
“One Eos Bioreactor sequesters the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as an entire acre of trees. With enough Eos devices, we could make whole cities carbon-neutral or even negative, and at a rate that is so much faster than that of trees. That’s the dream: breathable, livable cities for everyone and right now.”
Today I‘m excited to share a first look at @hypergiant's Eos Bioreactor. This started with a question: why isn‘t climate change fixable? And, ended with an answer: we need to look more aggressively at algae. https://t.co/f5YcHOPi3o pic.twitter.com/OYWU52RFl4
— Ben Lamm (@federallamm) September 17, 2019
Designed to sit inside offices and eventually on the rooftops throughout cities, the Eos Bioreactor is a closed system that connects with an industrial HVAC system to reduce CO2 levels and release cleaner air. Algae is easy to grow as it primarily needs sunlight, CO2, and water. Because algae grow much faster than trees, it can also sequester carbon more quickly.
As algae consumes CO2, it produces biomass, which can be harvested and processed to create fuel, oils, nutrient-rich high-protein food sources, fertilizers, plastics, cosmetics, and much more. Lamm told Digital Trends:
“We believe one of the biggest human challenges of our time is the current crisis with global warming. As such, we set out to figure out if trees were really the best solution or if there were other effective alternatives. It turns out that algae are actually much more effective than trees at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, and can be used to create carbon negative fuels, plastics, textiles, food, fertilizer and much more. Our research led us to utilize algae and A.I. to create the Eos Bioreactor, a prototype bioreactor that can substantially outperform trees by up to 400 times.”
Carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas that can linger in the atmosphere for thousands of years, is not only making the planet warmer but also affecting our planet’s climate systems leading to unprecedented heat waves, catastrophic wildfires, extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas, food supply disruptions, and a range of other impacts.
"I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action."
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared before Congress to urge lawmakers to "listen to the scientists" and embrace global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. https://t.co/txEdAiOYKC pic.twitter.com/O51ESiqOYI
— ABC News (@ABC) September 18, 2019
In recent years, researchers have come with “solutions” to remove carbon dioxide from the sky. Ideas such as compressing it into a liquid and injecting it into underground reservoirs to turning it into an edible protein have been put forth. However, since these “solutions” weren’t large-scale enough to realistically solve the emissions crisis, they were shelved for being impractical.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, planting trees, conserving existing forests and grasslands, and capturing CO2 from power plants and factories (apart from phasing out fossil fuels) would drastically suck CO2 from the sky.
To speed up the process, Lamm plans to release the blueprints for its system so that people can come up with new variants that might be easier to build into homes or office buildings worldwide:
“Our goal at Hypergiant Industries is to use the world’s best technologies to solve the world’s biggest problems. Excess carbon in our atmosphere is driving a number of massive catastrophes for our planet and pushing us to get off planet and colonize space.
“I want humanity to colonize space because I want to explore the cosmos to better understand our place within it. I don’t want us to colonize space because we are running away from our home planet. This device is one of our first efforts focused on fixing the planet we are on. We hope to inspire and collaborate with others on a similar mission.”