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Green Algae: Can it Really Fuel Your House?

April 17, 2013
tags:#algae, #clean energy, #eco-efficiency, #Energy Technology, #environment, #New Energy Technologies
by:Itai Lahat
If you are visiting the IBA Hamburg next week, you don’t want to miss the world’s first algae-powered building, dubbed the BIQ House.

International design firm Arup partnered with both Germany’s Strategic Science Consultants and Austria-based Splitterwerk Architects to develop the BIQ House, which will launch at the International Building Exhibition (IBA).

The facade of the building features a series of panel glass bioreactors in which microalgae is grown. The layer of algae provides insulation for the building and also acts as a noise barrier. Being responsive to sun light, the algae increasingly multiply the sunnier it gets, and as more and more algae grows, the more shading and better insulation is provided for the building.

But wait, there’s more... 

Since these bio-reactors trap the algae's heat energy, they also produce bio-energy to power the building. And, since the algae itself is a bio-mass, it can then also be harvested and turned into a bio-fuel that can then be used to power the cars of residents or simply create electricity for the building.

Currently, 129 bioreactors - each measuring 2.5m by 0.7m - have been fitted to the southwest and southeast faces of the building. They are controlled by a digital energy management center in which solar thermal heat and algae are harvested and stored to be used to create hot water.

Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader, commented: "Using bio-chemical processes in the facade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it's great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario".

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Itai Lahat