Algae-based bio-panels to absorb CO2 and produce energy

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Will solar panels be able to extract carbon dioxide and produce energy from biomass? This is the challenge taken by a Mexican start -up, Greenfluidics, which designs panels composed of microalgae bioreactors and nanofluids. These biopanels are capable of generating up to 328 kWh/m2 per year and can reduce CO2 emissions by 200 kg per year. They were also found to be 90% biodegradable. This versatile technology, unique in the world, makes it possible to achieve huge energy savings.

Unlike photovoltaic panels, Greenfluidics biopanels simply cannot provide energy. They also contribute to the fight against global warming thanks to a combined CO2 capture process: microalgae trapped in the panels act like any plant in the sun, absorb CO2 and create oxygen through photosynthesis. . ” We believe in creating solutions for a new global energy order, where energy is part of the larger solution for our environment. “, as in Business News in Mexico Miguel Mayorga, CEO of Greenfluidics.

The nanofluids present in the panels – which are composed of carbon nanoparticles – absorb solar radiation; the heat is then used to make biomass or converted into electricity. This technology has the advantage of being scalable (the CEO determined that it is especially necessary and possible to adapt microalgae to each country) and portable: the panels can be installed in any type of structure where they can be exposed to the sun. They can even be installed as windows.

A hot water circuit powered by biomass combustion

The concept is not entirely new. In 2013, Splitterwerk Architects and engineering firm Arup joined forces to build the world’s first building in Hamburg with bioreactor facades. This residential building, called BIQ, with 200 m² of microalgae panels, produces biomass and heat as renewable energy sources.

BIQ, in Hamburg, is the first building in the world to have bioreactor panels. © Colt International, Arup Deutschland, SSC GmbH

In concrete, BIQ panels extract CO2 from an emitting source, then inject this gas into water containing algae strains. As these plants absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, their mass increases-and the more they are exposed to solar radiation, the faster these algae grow, absorbing more CO2.

These panels also retain the heat of their water; heat and biomass are collected in a closed circuit storage, then used to produce hot water. The generated biomass is treated to become biofuel, then returned to the building where it feeds the circuit of the hot water system. According to its designers, BIQ can thus cover almost one-third of the energy needs related to water heating.

In addition, mounted on the outside, these panels also serve as shade in the building, significantly reducing energy consumption dedicated to air conditioning in the summer. The system also includes additional features such as thermal insulation and noise reduction, highlighting the full potential of this technology. Despite this potential, it is clear that the technology has not been widely exploited since. Created in 2018, startup Greenfluidics has an interest in this technology and is now presenting a new biopanel concept.

Carbon to increase thermal conductivity

Greenfluidics technology is particularly distinguished by its heat capture and conversion processes. Its panels rely on carbon-based nanofluids, which are added to water to increase their thermal conductivity. This water circulates on one side of the panel, while microalgae are trapped on the other side. The heat is directly converted into electricity by a thermoelectric generator – just like traditional solar panels.

Greenfluidics panels can even be installed as windows. © Greenfluidics

Another advantage of these panels lies in their design: according to their designers, they can create different aspects, very aesthetic, integrating perfectly into modern architecture. Greenfluidics also claims that the shading effect provided by its panels can save “up to 90 kWh / m2 »Per year in terms of air conditioning.

After testing the first panels in real-world conditions last year, the start-up was able to test its technology in different regions of the world. He now hopes to sell these panels, especially to industries that emit a lot of CO2 and also to the agricultural sector – so that microalgae can be used as biological fertilizer for the soil.

The concept is promising, but many questions remain unanswered, starting with the long life of these panels. There is also the question of maintenance and cleaning, or even the green tinted light that illuminates the interior of buildings. Is it possible, in addition, to find algae strains that persist throughout the year and in all climates?

Not to forget that this type of installation represents a specific cost: for BIQ, these biopanels increase the cost of the facade by 10! Has this investment really recouped the savings made in terms of electrical energy? Are these panels more efficient than conventional solar panels combined with good insulation? If the startup shows that its panels can in theory generate up to 328 kWh / m per year2only large -scale use will prove that this technology is (or not) economically feasible.

Source: Greenfluidics

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