The Super Algae Factory
Dr. Nina Gaißerts keynote at the Hannover Messe press preview sounds like science fiction, but is already reality in the Bionic Learning Network of Hannover Messe exhibitor Festo. Gaißert is speaking about the fusion of technology and biology with the goal to fight climate change.28 Feb 2023
Gaißert is firmly convinced: “The establishment of a genuine circular economy will generate the next burst of development for industrial production.” In other words, consistent recycling of products or carbon-neutral reconversion of products into their source materials.
Gaißert: “Nature abhors waste and wastefulness. We need to learn to apply these principles to our economies.” Learning from nature is what Festo’s bionics team has set its sights on. The researchers look for examples from nature and put what they find into innovative factory technology.
Algae currently play a crucial role at Festo. What many people don't know is that algae are little climate savers. On the one hand, they absorb and bind significantly more CO2 than land plants. On the other, they produce substances that can serve as source materials for the production of medicines, foodstuffs, plastics or cosmetics.
“If we succeed in cultivating algae on a large scale, we shall be making an immense contribution to climate change mitigation,” explains Gaißert.
Festo’s researchers have already succeeded in what sounds like a futuristic fantasy. Algae are cultivated in a bioreactor specially developed for the purpose. But not only that: the reactor provides optimal growth conditions, so that the algae produced there absorb and bind one hundred times more carbon dioxide than land plants. Supercharged algae, so to speak!
Gaißert emphasizes the significance this also has for industrial production: “Around one liter of petroleum is required to produce a plastic shampoo bottle. If the shampoo bottle is incinerated after use, it releases a further three kilograms of CO2 and thus has a negative carbon footprint. Using bio-plastic based on algae instead means that three kilograms of CO2 are bound, which are released again on disposal, thus making for a balanced cycle.”
Asked when the first large-scale algae factory can be expected, Nina smiles and refers to the upcoming Hannover Messe: “At the event we will be showing the scaling of the system and hence the preliminary stage to industrialization.”
That’s good news! The first steps have been taken on the way to the climate-saving super algae factory.
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