Carbon capturing bioreactor could help reverse air pollution

This bioreactor cleans CO2 from the air better than 400 trees.
Image: Hypergiant Industries

There’s no question that air pollution is becoming a serious problem. For major cities in China (and increasingly in the U.S.) the sight of a smog-filled sky is a near-daily occurrence. Now, a new algae-powered bioreactor could help clean the air by sucking out more carbon dioxide than an acre of trees.

The remarkable invention could be the answer to the seemingly impossible question of how to control carbon emissions. Rather than taking a mechanical approach to the problem, development firm Hypergiant Industries is using the power of nature to clean up humanity’s mess.

Mass-Scale Carbon Cleanup

There have been several attempts at carbon cleanup in the past. Although some of them have seen success, none have offered a scalable solution large enough to tackle the ever-growing air pollution problem.

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However, the algae-based system in the Eos Bioreactor could easily expand to help densely packed cities clean up their skies. It works by sucking in air from the atmosphere via an industrial HVAC system and feeding it through a network of tubes and chambers containing hungry algae. The bio-material feeds on carbon dioxide, allowing the reactor to pump clean air back out.

The Eos reactor measures in at 63-cubic feet. It’s small enough to be practical for urban areas but packs plenty of power. The system is capable of removing as much carbon from the air as 400 trees.

However, that’s not all the reactor does. As algae grows by feasting on CO2 it produces a biomass as its byproduct. Scientists are just beginning to unlock the possibilities of this material. According to a company press release, “This biomass can then be harvested and processed to create fuel, oils, nutrient-rich high-protein food sources, fertilizers, plastics, cosmetics, and more.”

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Sure, the idea of eating algae might sound off-putting. However, it may be one of the most important materials that humanity has access to in a few decades. Systems like the Eos Bioreactor that serve a twofold purpose of cleaning the air and producing such a diverse material could be a key to solving Earth’s climate crisis.

To ensure that its reactor has the best chance of success, Hypergiant is preparing to release the system’s blueprint. Everyone from creative tinkerers to climate-focused corporations will have access to the plans so they can work on building better versions of the system. For example, creating a design that makes it easier to integrate Eos into a home.

Ben Lamm, Hypergiant’s CEO says, “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.”