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Plant based innovations to reduce pollution

Posted by Team ADI on

We know that plants naturally do a lot of work for the environment. These include the textbook example of absorbing excess carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen and providing natural habitats for animals.

But there are many up and coming plant based innovations that show how technology and nature can go hand in hand to reduce pollution. These range from plant-inspired man made inventions like synthetic trees, to incorporating plants themselves in technology. From algae lamps to photosynthesis bikes, here we highlight green innovations that can mitigate the effects of pollution.


Algae Lamps

The oddly futuristic idea of algae lamps has been making waves for quite some time now. Algae lamps are multifaceted and self sufficient. They can absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide, and release oxygen just like trees.

Unlike trees however, they also produce a ‘soft’ fluorescent glow that can make sure that dim streets are well lit. It is also 150-200 times more efficient at removing carbon dioxide than trees. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, their self sufficiency means that they do not need to be powered by external sources.


The lead researcher Pierre Calleja, was inspired by the geohistorical role of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) as the species that populated the environment with lots of oxygen. 

This was an inspirational tale of nature being self sufficient, where life itself produced life sustaining conditions. Microalgae has seen a rise in application for ecosystem problems, especially in oil spill crisis.

However, in the realm of unwanted scientific byproducts, the team still has a couple of kinks to hammer out. These include the murky layer that algae tends to produce on glass, something that we address in our Ecoqube FAQ, and the our societal preference for yellow or white light, as opposed to green.


Synthetic Trees


If you think that christmas trees are the only artificial trees, think again. Inspired by the real thing, geophysics professor Klaus Lackner has been hard at work constructing carbon absorbing structures that does much more than looking pretty.

One such structure can absorb 1000 times more carbon dioxide than trees, and absorb the carbon emissions of 20 gasoline cars per day. This would greatly speed up the process of reducing global warming.

The structures behave more like carbon catchers than tree like convertors. Much effort has been spent in developing the sorbent liquid to catch the carbon. However, releasing the carbon from the sorbent itself is something the team is still struggling with.

Another thing that sets them apart from trees is that they do not require water, nor sunlight to function. However, they still require about $30,000 per structure, so until a cheaper mode of construction is found, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed.


Photosynthetic Bikes

We’ve talked about green innovations that are more or less static placements, so now let’s move on to a more dynamic innovation, that tries to replicate the photosynthetic process of a plant in the activity of cycling.


While still in the conceptual stage, the award winning design by Lightfog creative & Design company notes that the aluminium frame would convert sunlight into energy that will run a fuel cell battery. This battery will then produce oxygen, mediated by a filter that will direct particle free clean air towards the rider.

This exciting idea allows for continuous release of clean air even while the bicycle is parked using battery power. Want to keep fit and directly cut down on excess CO2 gas? Keep a lookout for photosynthetic bikes.


Terrarium Air Filters


Rapidly industrialized countries face a host of problems with smog and air pollution that they’re desperately struggling with. Designer Chiu Chih used the idea of a dystopian future to highlight his design of a portable terrarium filter, where natural plants are used to filter man made pollutants that may reach level where conditions become unlivable. While seemingly apocalyptic, these point out to our current need for adaption of such innovations to solve these dire issues.

- Ariz Ansari, Intern

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