Algae-The future of Carbon Capture Technology

Algae Carbon Capture

Carbon emissions are the biggest threat to life on our planet and yet every year about 35 billion metric tons of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Cutting down the release of carbon emissions is not enough, the enormous amount of life-threatening carbon that has already been released into the atmosphere must also be removed. But how? Luckily, Brilliant Planet, a London-based startup, has found a solution.

The CEO of Brilliant Planet, Adam Taylor says that “It takes time to change people, governments, and companies. We’ve got to do something about it.” So in 2013, Taylor with his team of scientists, biologists, and technical experts started working towards a solution that would not only fix the problem in a cost-effective & sustainable way but also use the hidden mechanisms of nature to counter the problem instead of using the conventional carbon capturing machines which are far more costly. 

Algae – Nature’s own carbon-capturing machine.

Algae, which is typically found in freshwater and marine systems, is nature’s own carbon-capturing machine. As algae grows, it sucks large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, some species of microalgae have been shown to efficiently remove CO₂ 10 to 50 times higher than terrestrial plants.

Brilliant Planet claims that by 2024 their algae farms will capture CO2 equal to the emissions of 8000 cars annually.

So here comes the role of the team at Brilliant Planet; they plan to tap into the algae’s power, and use its natural mechanism to capture and permanently isolate carbon from the atmosphere at an enormous and fathomable scale. The company plans to set up multiple farms around the world where algae could bloom year-round and capture carbon in gigantic quantities.

Source: Brilliant Planet

Once the algae have grown to a considerable amount and captured sufficient amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, it is harvested and dried in an open desert area. And then these carbon-rich algae are buried 1-4 meters under the desert surface where they will stay effectively isolated in their new home sweet home for thousands of years. At the same time, the de-acidified seawater is sent back to the ocean where it belongs. 

The company has come a long way since 2013 when it set up a 3-square meter experimental farm on the shores of St. Helena in South Africa. After 8 initial years of research & development, and almost three years of pilot projects, they soon aim to develop an expandable production platform that can be deployed anywhere around the globe. As of now, Brilliant Planet runs a thirty thousand square meter algae production facility with the world’s largest algae growth pond in the coastal desert of Morocco.

The innovative team at Brilliant Planet finds the most effective species of algae and makes them bloom all year at their open-air ponds-based ecosystems in the middle of unoccupied coastal deserts. In addition to that, the whole process is eco-friendly as they harness natural seawater and not freshwater to run their experiments. They use solar power to run the apparatus which is designed in such a way that energy is used most efficiently. Gravity plays a very significant part in moving the water from one pond to the next, minimizing energy consumption to a great extent. This process also has a latent function as it de-acidifies the polluted ocean water to pre-industrial levels, increasing the average water quality. So far, the brilliant planet has not only devised a successful plan to capture carbon from the atmosphere, but they also use underutilized natural resources, like desert areas which have no alternative economic use. 

Brilliant Planet claims that by 2024 their algae farms will capture CO2 equal to the emissions of 8000 cars annually, and this is just the start. They also claim to make this feat possible at only just a tenth the price of current direct air carbon capturing methods. The business model at Brilliant Planet is simple, they plan to sell carbon credit to big companies that need to neutralize their carbon footprint.

By Vaibhav Singhai

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