#861 Mighty midget algae fight climate change

Pierra Calleja and the lamp he invented, powered by “humanity’s best friend”, the microalgae

Pierra Calleja and the lamp he invented, powered by “humanity’s best friend”, the microalgae

Emitting a soft green glow, these microalgae lamps gobble CO2 for lunch. They are so efficient just one of them can consume a ton of carbon dioxide in a year. An exact comparison with how much CO2 trees can absorb is tricky since that varies by species (and doesn’t take into account CO2 emissions from falling leaves and decomposing dead trees). But I found one site that said a mature tree absorbs about 48 lbs. (21.8 kg) per year. The same site said the average American emits about 2.3 tons of CO2/year. It would take a lot of trees to offset all that carbon dioxide.

Enter Pierre Calleja of Libourne, France, a scientist placing his bets on humanity’s predecessor and “best friend”: microalgae. He is Chairman, CEO and founder of the French firm, Fermentalg. He has invented a lamp that gives off a soft green glow. According to Designboom the algae’s photosynthesis charges the lamp’s battery, resulting in a neon-green glow. All the while the lamp glows, it is happily absorbing CO2.

Place these green lamps along highways or in parking garages, and they will do a lot of the heavy lifting needed to scrub all that CO2 we keep pumping out. John Metcalfe wrote about Calleja and his invention for The Atlantic Cities and was unable to find anyone besides the inventor who thought they might work. He did, however, say that Calleja has been studying algae for two decades and that Fermentalg is known for many types of algal-based research.

Personally, I’m placing bets on Calleja, who knows a lot more about microalgae than Metcalfe or I. His promising invention would tackle two things the planet has in excess: CO2 and algae. Both are major environmental problems so Calleja’s lamp could not just light highways, businesses and homes. It could also make a major contribution to mitigating climate change and cleaning up waterways.

It is an extraordinary thought, that a single-celled, primitive organism, ancestor to all life on earth, could be one of the answers to our climate change problems. Calleja appreciates microalgae and sees them as allies rather than as problems. His creative approach just might kick start a lot of positive change. He gives me hope.

Watch Pierre Calleja’s TED talk, and you will never again think of microalgae without enormous respect.

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2 comments for “#861 Mighty midget algae fight climate change

  1. November 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I heard rumours on the Internet that this was a hoax. I’m so glad it’s real!

    • November 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

      It’s controversial and may not prove to be a commercially viable option, but it’s stretching thinking about what’s possible.

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