For good reason, plenty of people are worried about the quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) that are being pumped into the atmosphere. Since the early 1800s, scientists have known that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat, causing the effect we now know as global warming. CO2 is a particularly big contributor to this problem. Created as a result of the burning of fuels like oil and natural gas, CO2 makes up the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions. It represents around 72% of the total, compared to 18% methane and 9% nitrous oxide.
There are only a few ingredients needed for algae to take over: carbon dioxide, light, and water. The ancient microorganism is thriving thanks to record heat waves and fertilizers washed away into nearby waters. But what if a fourth ingredient -- artificial intelligence -- could transform the gooey sludge from a growing pest into a tool to fight climate change? A team of researchers at the AI technology company Hypergiant sees algae as a weapon that can be harnessed for our benefit. They recently built an AI-powered machine, the EOS bioreactor, that takes advantage of algae's ability to capture carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.
When it comes to organic processes that we can leverage to tackle the runaway problem of climate change, the carbon-absorbing abilities of algae may be one of the most potent tools at our disposal. For years, scientists have been studying this natural phenomena in hope of tackling greenhouse gas emissions and producing eco-friendly biofuels, and now US company Hypergiant Industries has packaged the tech up into a box-shaped machine that can soak up as much carbon from the atmosphere as an acre of trees. Through the process of photosynthesis, the aquatic plant algae soaks up carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to produce energy. Naturally, the plant will use this energy to multiply and grow, but scientists have been experimenting with ways to capture it and convert it into biofuels instead, with some promising results. The newly announced Eos Bioreactor might look like someone left a giant Xbox in the garden, but Hypergiant Industries isn't looking to play games here.
There is no longer any credible reason to deny our part in the climate crisis. We are now facing the destruction of vital ecosystems, and every year 12.6 million people die because of environmental pollution. Cutting edge smart city technologies may be our most useful weapon in the fight against the climate crisis, helping us to reduce our impact on the planet in future, and alleviate the damage we have already done. Part two of this series will focus on how smart cities can help us tackle the looming climate crisis, and which technologies will be used to ensure cities continue to be sustainable as our planet and population dramatically change. Once we have planned out cities that are adaptable and better suited to our needs, we can start implementing smart technologies to overhaul unsustainable utilities, transport and energy systems.
A bioreactor has been flown to the International Space Station (ISS) to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen using algae. The lives of the astronauts on-board the ISS will not hinge on it working properly as it is an experiment to see if the concept is viable for long-duration spaceflight. It is hoped one day it will be part of a'closed-loop' system that can sustain missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. Current trips are limited by what can be carried on rockets but the potential for a complete system would open up more opportunities for space travel. A bioreactor (pictured) has been flown to the International Space Station (ISS) to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen using algae.