French biochemist Pierre Calleja poses the question, “who will save our suffocating world?” Given the scientist’s area of expertise, the answer may not surprise you, for in his formulation the crucial ingredient of our salvation is not the out-sized brains of homo sapiens, but rather the singular cells of a phosphorescent micro organism.
Microalgae Street Lamps. Designed by Pierre Calleja.
Scientist Pierre Calleja Has Designed A Bio-Powered Lamp
Calleja’s creation is a lamp like no other. Though slightly familiar from the photovoltaic paradigm of energy collection, Calleja’s Microalgae Powered Lamps depart from pv cells in many ways. Just for starters, the crucial components are not made by man at considerable effort and expense, but rather bestowed as a gift of nature—prone to reside at the mucky surface of a Louisiana swamp, or deep in the gardens of the dark-green sea.
For the last 20 years, Calleja has focused his attentions on species of mixotropic algae, versatile little buggers that generate electricity not only from the preferred source of most plant life—sunlight—but also by absorbing CO2: “the lamps are composed of a tube containing microalgae, as well as a battery… during the day, the batteries are charged via photosynthesis of the algae, using both solar power and CO2.”
This means that Calleja’s microalgae not only suck those pesky carbon molecules from the air, they also convert them into a ready source of energy to power his street lamps. The lamps, for their part, contain a murky mix of the greenish algae and a growth medium (water). This, together with the emitted light, makes for a Frankenstein meets Tim Burton type of aesthetic, which will be most intriguing once Calleja perfects the concept and the lamps begin to purify the air on foggy roadways and cloud-enshrouded bridges from Paris to Prague, from Bangladesh to Budapest.
Remarking that car exhaust accounts for around 25% of global CO2 emissions, Calleja suggests that the Microalgae Lamps will address two social problems at once: “absorbing an estimated ton of emissions per year, the lamps represent a viable electricity-free lighting solution even for locations where there is no or little natural light, such as underground parking garages—at night, the stored power is used for lighting.”
About the Designer: French Biochemist Pierre Calleja has dedicated 20+ years of research to the microscopic wunderkind called mixotropic algae. These single-celled organisms feed on sunlight and carbon dioxide with equal facility, thus not only harboring tremendous potential to diminish global warming, but also to create usable electricity. Currently in the prototype stage, Calleja’s Mircoalgae Street Lamps may one day be a fixture in high-density municipalities, shops, and private homes.