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Brief Published: 14 Jun 2019

Solar Panels Turn Pollution into Food

Imperial College London

Scientists at London start-up Arboreal have conceived a way to reduce CO2 levels in polluted cities using bio-solar panels, whilst simultaneously producing next-gen nutrition.

The BioSolar Leaf system facilitates plant growth, such as microalgae and phytoplankton, on solar panels. Through photosynthesis, algae convert solar energy and CO2 into breathable oxygen. Each panel absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide as 100 trees per day.

The algae can then be harvested as an antioxidant-rich plant-based food source. Gram for gram, spirulina – a common form of algae – has more calcium than milk, more beta-carotene than carrots and more protein than meat.

This new way of producing algae, which is being piloted on the rooftop of Imperial College London's new campus, is less expensive to execute than laboratory-based production and results in higher quality algae.

Julian Melchiorri, chief executive and founder of Arboreal, said of the invention: "My goal was to tackle climate change while addressing critical issues related to the food system. This pilot plant will produce sustainable healthy food additives while purifying the air, producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment."

This multifunctional bio-solution is an exciting evolution in the mission to turn cityscapes into climate-friendlier spaces.

For an example of how algae cultivation can provide nutrition in the workplace, read Smart Sustenance, and see Self-Sustaining Spaces for more on eco-friendly kitchens of the future.