GOOD

Could Algae Be the Future of Renewable Energy?

A new design exhibit showcases the illuminating power of everyone’s favorite eukaryotic organism as biofuel.

Living Things at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art showcases the use of algae for fuel.

As the scourge of ponds and swimming holes everywhere, algae frequently get a bad rep. These little green pests, however, play a very vital role in our ecosystem—and potentially the future of renewable energy. Photosynthetic algae are able to “eat” excess CO2 in the atmosphere and produce energy, which has led scientists to question whether they might be a potential (and plentiful) source of biofuel. Recently two Carnegie Mellon graduates, Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier, created an exhibit called Living Things, which showcases how “algae energy” could someday provide a greener way to power homes. The exhibit, taking place through spring 2016 at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, is one part furniture design showcase, one part futuristic lab experiment. As part of the project, algae is sent through more than half-a-mile of intricate piping to feed into glass vessels, shaped like lamps and other home ephemera, filled with alkaline water.


These “high functioning photo bioreactors” are then able to generate heat and light as part of a self-sustaining system that also filters the air, and provides nutrient and waste control to the algae, allowing them to thrive and multiply. Like an Ikea showroom gone rogue, the exhibit contains a dining room, living room, and “concealed control center”—all powered by algae.

The best part of the living room is the glowing, orb like vessels affixed to ceiling fixtures and tabletops.

At the control center, 3D-printed knobs enable the algae to be harvested.

“It keeps the biomass from coating the interior surfaces of the vessels and also provides each little photosynthetic organism varying access to light, which simulates the natural environment of a lake or ocean where currents or waves move algae closer or further away from the surface and therefore sunlight,” Douenias explained to PSFK, in reference to the piping system.

Prior to his work with Living Things, Douenias worked on a startup that hoped to implement food waste energy and nutrient recovery systems. This helped fuel his curiosity in algae, particularly spirulina, which will be served at various exhibition events throughout the run.

Living Things is currently on view at the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through March 27, 2016.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health