Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

September 5, 2017 by  
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Industrial agriculture is blamed as a major cause of greenhouse gas, but what if there was a way to sustainably produce food that could help solve some of the world’s toughest environmental problems? That’s what the folks at SPACE10 , a Copenhagen-based future-living lab, tackled with the futuristic Algae Dome, a four-meter-tall food-producing architecture pavilion that pumps out oxygen in a closed-loop system. Powered by solar energy, the Algae Dome offers a sustainable and hyper-local food system that can pop up almost anywhere with minimal impact on the environment. Architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz, and bioengineer Keenan Pinto created the Algae Dome, which was presented at the CHART art fair in Copenhagen last week. Although SPACE10 has experimented with growing microgreens before, the team targets an even smaller food with the Algae Dome—micro-algae. Praised as a future “superfood,” micro-algae is said to contain twice as much protein as meat and is packed with vitamins and minerals, with more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than found in spinach, according to SPACE10. Even better? Micro-algae are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms and can be grown with sunshine and water almost anywhere, all while sucking up carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen in the process. Related: SPACE10 creates an open-source Growroom you can build at home During the three-day CHART art fair, the Algae Dome produced 450 liters of micro-algae and provided an interactive architectural experience that was part food system, part furniture, and wholly educational. The large amount of food was produced in a surprisingly small amount of space thanks to the design that featured 320 meters of coiled tubing, showing off the flow of emerald green micro-algae. Visitors were invited to sit inside the pavilion and enjoy a “breath of fresh air” created by the micro-algae as it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. Packets of delicious spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) chips, created by SPACE10’s chef-in-residence Simon Perez, were placed around the pavilion to give passersby the chance to try the superfood. “In the future, different species of microalgae could be used as a form of nutrient-rich food, as a replacement for soy protein in animal feed, in the development of biofuels, as a way to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and as a method of treating industrial wastewater,” said SPACE10. “In other words, microalgae could help combat malnutrition, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels , help stop the destruction of the rainforest, improve air quality, and reduce pollution. Little wonder that microalgae has been dubbed the future’s sustainable super crop.” SPACE10 sees the Algae Dome as the prototype for food-producing architecture that could pop up virtually anywhere, from bus stops to apartment complexes. + SPACE10 Picture credit: Niklas Adrian Vindelev

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Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel

June 23, 2017 by  
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Scientists have been working since the 1970’s to transform algae into biofuel . Now a new breakthrough could make this alternative energy source a more viable option. Researchers from Synthetic Genomics, Inc. and ExxonMobil were able to edit algae genes to produce two times more lipids. Those lipids can be turned into biofuel that isn’t too different from the diesel we use today. Researchers figured out how to tune a genetic switch to regulate the conversion of carbon to oil in the alga Nannochloropsis gaditana . They used multiple editing techniques including CRISPR-Cas9. They were able to boost the algae’s oil content from 20 percent to over 40 percent – and importantly, did so without stunting the algae’s growth rate. The modified algae can produce as much as five grams of lipid per meter per day. Related: New biofuel from wastewater slashes vehicle CO2 emissions by 80% Vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company Vijay Swarup said the milestone confirms their belief algae can offer a source of renewable energy . Synthetic Genomics CEO Oliver Fetzer said carbon dioxide and sunlight are two major components necessary for algae production, and both are plentiful and free. According to ScienceAlert, a past report indicated biofuels from algae could become a $50 billion industry , with the potential to offer transport fuel and food security. But we still could be years away from pumping this particular algae-based biofuel into our cars at gas stations. Researcher Imad Ajjawi of Synthetic Genomics told ScienceAlert this step was just a proof of concept, but did describe it as a significant milestone. According to Greentech Media , organizations have been working on making biofuel from algae for years, without much progress towards commercialization. In fact, they cited former ExxonMobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson , who back in 2009 said the work on turning algae into biofuels might not come up with real results for 25 years. The journal Nature Biotechnology published a study on the concept online this month. Via ScienceAlert and Synthetic Genomics Images via ExxonMobil and Wikimedia Commons

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Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel

Vivobarefoot is launching a sneaker made out of algae

May 25, 2017 by  
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Vivobarefoot , a London-based purveyor of so-called “barefoot” footwear , is going green in an altogether unexpected way. Together with Bloom , a materials innovation firm from San Diego, the company is poised to debut the world’s first molded shoe derived from algae. No, swamp couture hasn’t suddenly become en vogue. Rather, Bloom harvests biomass from ponds and lakes, particularly those at risk for algal overload, and turns it into closed-cell foam known as ethylene-vinyl acetate, or EVA for short. Typically made from petroleum-based sources, EVA is what gives sneakers that extra-cushy feel. Vivobarefoot’s new lace-up is made almost entirely from the stuff, a fact that not only makes it equally at home on land and in water, but it also gives the environment a much-needed boost. Related: Researchers use algae to treat wastewater and generate biofuel A single pair of men’s size 42 Vivobarefoot x Bloom shoes, according to Vivobarefoot, returns 57 gallons of clean water to ecosystem while removing the equivalent of 40 balloons worth of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “This is a true revolution for the footwear industry with the first plant based alternative to the petro-foams in ubiquitous use,” said Galahad Clark, founder and managing director of Vivobarefoot, in a statement. “We are thrilled to be the first company to use Bloom in our shoes and further our mission to make the perfect shoe—perfect for feet and minimal impact on the planet.” Related: Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change The Vivobarefoot x Bloom shoe will be available for purchase online and in stores this July. + Vivobarefoot x Bloom

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Glass-encased circular Solo House snakes through a Spanish forest

May 25, 2017 by  
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Brussels-based Office KGDVS just unveiled an amazing glass-enclosed circular building that winds through a lush green forest in Spain’s mountainous Matarraña region. The curved home is built on a high plateau and clad in floor-to-ceiling windows to give the space one continual breathtaking view of its evergreen setting. Solo House II is part of a series of individual retreats designed by French developer Christian Bourdais and built by various architects. Office KGDVS put their own stamp on the second Solo Home design by placing the the concrete and glass home on top of a high plateau to provide optimal views. Related: Villa Nyberg: A Passive Swedish Prefab with a Cool Circular Floorplan “Since the scenery is so impressive, we felt architecture should be invisible, merely emphasising the natural qualities of the surroundings,” said the architects, “A simple circular roof with a diameter of 45 metres underlines the qualities of both the plateau and its edge.” The circular concrete roof is supported by multiple rows of columns that intersect throughout the length of the structure. The four sections of the home are made up of both straight and curved edges, which elongates the design. Sliding glass panels line the home’s volume, and open up to various open-air terraces. On the interior, sliding curtains made of metal mesh provide shade and privacy when needed. The home’s circular design was intended to put the focus on the home’s beautiful natural setting, but the curved shape also delivers a number of advantages. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels that run the length of the home flood the interior with natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting. The first Solo House was built by Chilean studio Pezo Von Ellrichshausen back in 2013. According to Bourdais, the Solo House project in Matarraña will eventually be joined by 15 other houses and a hotel. + Office KGDVS + Solo Houses Via Dezeen

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Glass-encased circular Solo House snakes through a Spanish forest

Mexico-sized algae bloom in the Arabian Sea connected to climate change

March 21, 2017 by  
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Talk of climate change probably evokes images of rising sea levels or hotter temperatures, but what about algae blooms ? Scientists have made a direct connection between an algae bloom in the Arabian Sea, which has blown up to the size of Mexico, and climate change. The massive bloom has been captured from satellites . 30 years ago, algae in the Gulf of Oman could barely be seen. Now, twice a year, microscopic organisms of the species Noctiluca scintillans turns the gulf green as it sprawls throughout the Arabian Sea towards India. Scientists say conditions produced by climate change are allowing the algae to thrive. Columbia University researchers have even traced the algae blooms to ice melting in the Himalayas. Related: Florida declares state of emergency due to gigantic algae bloom Satellite technology has also allowed researchers to connect algae with greater levels of water and air pollution . NASA ocean carbon and biology projects manager Paula Bontempi told the Associated Press satellite images of the algae are beautiful, like a Van Gogh painting, but in person the algae is smelly and ugly. She said, “We know that our Earth is changing. It may be in a direction we might not like.” The phenomenon threatens local ecosystems ; algae has been known to paralyze fish . The United Nations’ science agency says in rare cases algal toxins have killed humans. Oman faces unique threats from the algae bloom. There, algae can clog pipes at desalination plants providing as much as 90 percent of fresh water for the country. Fisheries in the country could also be harmed by the algae bloom; in 2008 an eruption of a different type of algae beached 50 tons of fish, which were starving for oxygen and rotted along the coast of Oman. Saleh al-Mashari, the captain of a researcher vessel, said this algae bloom has already caused damage. He told the Associated Press, “The fish are migrating. They can’t get enough air here.” Ahmad al-Alawi, a marine ecologist, said blooms are getting larger and lasting for longer periods of time. He said the blooms displace zooplankton, which are the base of the local food chain . Via Phys.org Images via Tristan Schmurr on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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This startling video shows coral bleaching in action

August 18, 2016 by  
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Rising ocean temperatures have prompted devastating coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – and in some sections, at least 35 percent of bleached coral has died. Now scientists at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have scrutinized just how coral reacts to hotter temperatures in controlled conditions, and caught the process on film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bjamypAq9Y Scientists Brett Lewis and Luke Nothdurft put Heliofungia actiniformis coral in a 10 liter “aquarium system” to see how the coral would respond as they heated the water. Over 12 hours, they increased water temperatures from 26 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius, or about 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit up to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit. They kept the coral in the system for around eight days. Related: Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching is now more widespread than ever The coral spewed Symbiodinium algae that live in them and provide the brilliant colors we’re used to seeing in coral reefs. The algae also generate sugars consumed by the coral. Expelling algae under the duress of hot temperatures can help the coral to survive – Lewis said “rapid expulsion” could increase the coral’s chance of survival. It’s possible for coral to regain the algae and their vivid colors if conditions improve, but if ocean temperatures don’t return to normal levels and the algae doesn’t recolonize, the coral can die. Scientists have been aware of this expulsion process, but the QUT team’s video is the first to show the eviction in action. Lewis said in a press release, “What’s really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts. The H. actiniformis began ejecting the symbionts within the first two hours of us raising the water temperature of the system.” Northdurft said coral bleaching is a “concern for scientists globally.” The journal Coral Reefs published their research online earlier this month. + Queensland University of Technology

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Fish with "human-like teeth" spotted in Michigan lakes

August 18, 2016 by  
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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently reported finding fish with “human-like teeth” in southeastern Michigan lakes. Anglers spotted red-bellied pacu in Lake St. Clair and near Port Huron. While the sight of these unusual fish may be good for a giggle or a gasp, their presence in Michigan lakes points to a deeper issue. These unusual fish sport teeth eerily reminiscent of humans’ so they can eat seeds and nuts. While they’re not native to Michigan, DNR said they’re not invasive. They’re imported from South America, and their presence in Michigan lakes likely means aquarium owners dumped their pet fish into the lakes. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years The DNR took the opportunity to remind aquarium owners it’s illegal to release their fish without a permit, and that pet release of any kind is rarely the humane option. Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit manager Nick Popoff said in a press release, “Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter. Those that do succeed in the wild can spread exotic diseases to native animals. In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species .” In the wild, the pacus probably wouldn’t survive frigid Michigan winters, but DNR said climate change could “increase the possibility” of their survival through the winter. The pacus may have been dumped because they outgrew their tanks or started to eat other aquarium fish, said Paige Filice, who works with the Reduce Invasive Pet and PLant Escapes (RIPPLE). She suggested that rather than dumping the fish in lakes, pacu owners could donate their fish to a zoo, aquarium, environmental learning center, or another hobbyist. She said some pet stores might take the fish back if an owner can no longer care for the pacu. + Michigan Department of Natural Resources Images via Michigan Department of Natural Resources , Henrik Carl, Natural History Museum of Denmark, and Wikimedia Commons

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Tiny birds nest tearoom roosts on a 300-year-old Camphor tree

August 18, 2016 by  
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Architect Hiroshi Nakamura drew inspiration for the Bird’s Nest Atami from crows that build their nests using clothes hangers, an approach he describes as “flying deftly across the dichotomy of natural and artificial…creating a functional and comfortable environment.” Those observations were applied to the design of the freestanding building that minimizes impact by avoiding contact with the 22-meter-tall camphor tree. Since the building site was set on a difficult steep slope, the treehouse was carefully inserted 10 meters off the ground using a combination of manpower, 3D modeling , and light structural elements that could be easily assembled and structurally sound. Related: Hiroshi Nakamura’s Nasu Tepee home features a cluster of timber-clad peaks mingling with the trees “It is architecture assembled by intertwining components small enough to carry,” writes Nakamura. “The architecture can adapt flexibly to the tree form (as opposed to “site form”) and melts into the forest crowded with dark branches.” The final result comprises a support structure made of wood and steel that culminates in the cozy Bird’s Nest Atami, mortared into the shape of a swallow’s nest with a cozy interior. A series of activities and other sprawling built spaces surround the raised teahouse, including a coffee stand, picnic area, and even zip lines . + Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Via Colossal Images via Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP , by by Koji Fujii / Nacasa and Partners Inc.

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Tiny birds nest tearoom roosts on a 300-year-old Camphor tree

Algaevator transforms algae production into a beautiful work of art and architecture

June 28, 2016 by  
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Created as part of the Burglars of Transnatural Transparency (BoTT) Lab pavilion, the Algaevator is a gravity-based algae photobioreactor built to explore the architectural possibilities of biotechnology utilities. The resulting lightweight and transparent structure comprises three separated spirals intercoiled between a heat-fused, watertight, and layered membrane. “An algae photobioreactor is an artificial environment used to increase the production of algae through the introduction of slow movement, carbon dioxide , and increased access to sunlight,” write the designers. “The algae is then used for various consumer products and alternative fuels.” Related: Biodegradable algae water bottles provide a green alternative to plastic The Algaevator’s first spiral introduces carbon dioxide from the environment to the bottom of the coil via a low-energy pump where it travels into an algae-filled spiral. Bubbles gently push the algae, which is combined with carbon dioxide for photosynthesis , to the top of the spiral where the algae is able to off-gas oxygen into the environment and then descend back down to the bottom of the spiral for further cycling. The structure is also able to harvest rainwater for adjacent biotech functions. The Algaevator was put on display and successfully operated for its three-month deployment. + Tyler Stevermer + Jie Zhang Images via Tyler Stevermer

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Algaevator transforms algae production into a beautiful work of art and architecture

This pink snow may be pretty, but it’s terrible news for the environment

June 27, 2016 by  
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Pink snow might sound outlandish, but it can actually be found around the world. While it may be pretty, it turns out it really isn’t a good look: the color is caused by blooming algae , which cause the snow to melt quicker. As the climate changes, these algae thrive – but their presence has ominous implications for glaciers . In a study published this week in Nature Communications , scientists from the UK and Germany scrutinized the algae and an effect called “bio-albedo.” White surfaces, like glaciers and snow, reflect sunlight, and that’s called albedo. When those glaciers and snow melt, they reveal darker surfaces beneath, like mountains or oceans, and those surfaces have a lower albedo, or absorb greater amounts of sunlight. That effect is important because red algae actually gives snow a lower albedo and makes it melt faster. Related: Arctic temperatures are literally off the charts Lead author Stefanie Lutz told Gizmodo, “The algae need liquid water in order to bloom . Therefore the melting of snow and ice surfaces controls the abundance of the algae. The more melting, the more algae. With temperatures rising globally, the snow algae phenomenon will likely also increase leading to an even higher bio-albedo effect.” Lutz’s study reveals ” red pigmented snow algal blooms ” can decrease snow albedo by 13 percent during a melt season. The phenomenon takes place all around the world, too, from the Arctic to Antarctica. Greenland, the European Alps, and Iceland are a few other places where people have noted the algae. The algae is especially prevalent in the Arctic during the summer, when Lutz says by her estimation at least 50 percent of snow on a glacier displays the blooms. Lutz and her colleagues recommended the algae be taken into account in future climate models, because warmer temperatures will likely mean more algae, and therefore even more melting. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Dick Culbert on Flickr

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