What is an algae bioreactor?

With climate change already affecting us so much, it is necessary and urgent for humans to become aware of decarbonization. One of the technologies for this is the algae bioreactor, which is also called a liquid tree or biomechanical tree. This equipment is capable of taking carbon dioxide from the air and returning oxygen through the photosynthesis of the algae it contains.

Algae bioreactor
Liquid tree – en.euronews.com
Algae bioreactors help to reduce climate change.

The company Hypergiant presented an algae bioreactor capable of such photosynthesis. The algae inside absorb water, light and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into oxygen and biomass. Each of these units supplies oxygen equivalent to 400 trees. Et is equipped with the latest in technology and artificial intelligence. Its sensors monitor parameters such as carbon dioxide (CO₂), radiation, pH or ambient temperature.

Algae are one of the most efficient natural organisms for carbon sequestration. Thus, bioreactors that use algae not only help decarbonization, but their waste or biomass is used to produce biofuels, which encourages a circular economy.

They study this option as a solution to combat climate change. Servía is a pioneer, they installed in the city these liquid trees created at the University of Belgrade. Likewise, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company YPF will install a liquid tree in fuel dispensing stations.

Algae are the main component

It should be noted that, algae bioreactors are not a novelty. The first bioreactors date back to the 1960s, where they were used for wastewater treatment.

Currently, the need for efficient and sustainable energy sources makes these devices a very good alternative. Macro and microalgae are cultivated for their operation. Algae offer a diversity of uses, water treatment, CO₂ capture, biomass production, among other options.

The main component is algae, which are photoautotrophic eukaryotic organisms whose photosynthesis produces oxygen. They are classified according to their pigmentation, which is responsible for their color and light absorption. Algae with green pigmentation, called Chlorophyta, are the ones commonly used in bioreactors. They are the fastest growing and fastest developing algae, as well as being the most resistant to bioreactor conditions.

Characteristics of bioreactors

There are two types of bioreactors, open and closed. Open bioreactors are exposed to the atmosphere and are the most technologically basic. Closed bioreactors are isolated from the atmosphere, as is the case of Hypergiant’s EOS.

Their construction varies according to their specific purpose. However, all devices feature:

  • a light source, either natural or artificial (LED light for example),
  • culture vessel for the algae,
  • mixing and aeration system,
  • components necessary for nutrient supply,
  • harvesting system (for biomass),
  • sensors for monitoring and control,
  • power system for the device to operate.

Algae bioreactors are a great alternative for capturing CO₂ and transforming it into oxygen. Especially for decreasing pollution in big cities, where planting trees seems not to be an option.

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