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Algae-powered building unveiled in Germany

Posted on Sunday, 21 April, 2013 | Comment icon 12 comments

Image credit: CC 2.0 Ian Sutton

The world's first building to be powered by algae is being piloted in Hamburg by engineering firm Arup.

Referred to as a "bio-adaptive facade", the system uses live algae within glass louvres to generate power. Liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide are supplied to the algae via a special water circuit and once grown it is transferred as a thick pulp to a special biogas plant where it is fermented.

"To use bio-chemical processes for adaptive shading is a really innovative and sustainable solution, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario," said lead researcher Jan Wurm. "As well as generating renewable energy and providing shade to keep the inside of the building cooler on sunny days, it also creates a visually interesting look that architects and building owners will like."

"The project was led by Arup in cooperation with German consultancy SSC Strategic Science Consult and the building was designed for the exhibition by Austrian firm Splitterwerk Architects."

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by freetoroam on 21 April, 2013, 13:32
Have heard they can make diesel out of algae, but not sure what the big fuel companies will say about that unless they can get the contracts first...and to the scientists first ofcourse. ps: Shrooma, we have solar power and its the best thing we have ever done.
Comment icon #4 Posted by shrooma on 21 April, 2013, 14:20
ps: Shrooma, we have solar power and its the best thing we have ever done. . that's EXACTLY what we need freet, WE need to impliment these things, as govts/business won't, on account of the cost issue. going solar/wind/algae takes the decision out of their hands and puts it in ours! after the initial outlay, the savings start to rack up, and self-sufficiency is ALWAYS better than reliance! more power (pun intended!) to ya!! :-)
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer on 21 April, 2013, 23:51
One thing the article let out is where does the power come from to supply the nutrients and pump the algae to the bio-fermenter. If the power is coming from the algae process itself, it must generate a fair amount of energy or we are just fooling ourselves again with something that sounds great but fails closer inspection.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Dark_Grey on 22 April, 2013, 1:49
Really cool that theyre using it to power a building
Comment icon #7 Posted by AliveInDeath7 on 22 April, 2013, 2:32
Perhaps this will be of better use. I definitely hope so! It is rather costly for most citizens to implement solar power and what-not to power their homes.. Edited to add: Money wise.. Most can't spend money to help the environment so a cost efficient way to do so would benefit us all.
Comment icon #8 Posted by questionmark on 22 April, 2013, 19:50
. i think the big step forward in this kind of tech is that it's implimentable on a small scale, something we could all use, as opposed to waiting for govts/big business to get round to it, like the wind/wave/solar solutions they've been threatening us with. a lot of people near me have solar panels on their roofs, and an increasing number of small businesses now have their own wind turbines. we ALL need to use these things for ourselves, it's the only solution! (well, until some bugger invents cold fusion....) With the little blemish that the German government is spending billions on alternat... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Lava_Lady on 23 April, 2013, 7:00
I hope it works, this would be awesome for Hawaii.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Zaphod222 on 23 April, 2013, 8:01
That is a highly misleading article. Clearly, that building is not "powered" by algae. All that pumping, feeding, filtering, drying and processing of algae consumes energy... there is no way in the world that the energy gained from the burning the resulting algae covers that. Obviously, they left that fact out of their engery "calculation".
Comment icon #11 Posted by Zaphod222 on 23 April, 2013, 8:04
With the little blemish that the German government is spending billions on alternative energies and giving generously to all who develop any. That is how most patents in alternative energy are held by German companies...or the oil sheiks of tomorrow. But those things are not possible where people refuse to pay taxes. Germany is already running into the limits of this naive, dream-based policy. You might note that they had to cut back to the heavy subsidies on solar power generation, resulting in new solar projects disappearing. These subsidies worked nicely for a few show-case projects to feel... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by questionmark on 23 April, 2013, 15:30
Germany is already running into the limits of this naive, dream-based policy. You might note that they had to cut back to the heavy subsidies on solar power generation, resulting in new solar projects disappearing. These subsidies worked nicely for a few show-case projects to feel oh-so-green.... but once large parts of the population jumped in to join, it simply became too expensive to pay for this fantasy. Ditto for those giant windmill parks planned for the Northern Sea... seez 26% of alternative energy used in Germany at this time, I know...

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