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Biotech Science

Biochemist Creates CO2-Eating Light That Runs On Algae 121

An anonymous reader writes "Biochemist Pierre Calleja has a solution to reducing carbon emissions that doesn't require us to cut back on our use of carbon-producing devices. Calleja has developed a lighting system that requires no electricity for power. Instead it draws CO2 from the atmosphere and uses it to produce light as well as oxygen as a byproduct. The key ingredient to this eco-friendly light? Algae. Certain types of algae can feed off of organic carbon as well as sunlight, and in the process produce carbohydrate energy for themselves as well as oxygen as a waste product. Cajella's lamps consist of algae-filled water along with a light and battery system. During the day the algae produce energy from sunlight that is then stored in the batteries. Then at night the energy is used to power the light. However, as the algae can also produce energy from carbon, sunlight isn't required for the process to work. That means such lights can be placed where there is no natural light and the air will effectively be cleaned on a daily basis."
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Biochemist Creates CO2-Eating Light That Runs On Algae

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  • One place for use (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In mines.
    Another, is in your mom's basement.

    • Light emitting underwear.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just don't forget that light generates heat. Warm underwear could be pleasant or unpleasant ...

        • depends on how warm... I ride a motorcycle. I could use some better warm underwear. Especially if it doesn't need electricity
  •   I think I may have found this Algae growing in a car park in Spain.
    Where can I download it? Er, I mean, get them to send me a sample. Assuming it's any different from photobioluminecent Algae that's present in the ocean anyway. Though collecting enough of this for me has been difficult.

    I hope they can take a selfless attitude rather than hanging into the limit commercial applications. The little guy can play a role here so I hope they are generous.


  • by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:45PM (#39910227)
    CO2 + Light = Algae

    CO2 + Algae = Light

  • I call bulls*it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:48PM (#39910239)

    Algae can produce energy via photosynthesis. Sure.

    Claiming (as is heavily implied) the can extract energy somehow from CO2 sans sunlight is about as sound as claims you can run your car on hydrogen "extracted" from water.

    Carbon isn't inherently a source of energy. Energy can be stored in carbon compounds by having carbon in certain oxidation states. Then in a redox reaction it gets oxidized to CO2. At that point, no more energy to extract. You need energy in at that point. Carbon isn't magic.

    Thermodynamics. It's not just a good idea. It's the law.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      For algae (or any plant really) to live, the balance between photosynthesis (CO2 -> O2) and oxidation (respiration: O2 -> CO2) has to be positive

      Plants work the same way as us (they need oxygen) the difference is that they have photosynthesis as well

      Now see "Certain types of algae can feed off of organic carbon as well as sunlight"

      It takes energy from both sources (unless they are kept in total darkness, which is not the case). Organic carbon in this context is: sugars.

      So I don't see the issue. Energy

    • Eh, that's not the worst part. Consider the following:
      Photosynthesis is 2% efficient.
      Solar cells are 20% efficient.
      Ergo, just use a solar cell.

      Then there's the problems of algae:
      Algae makes more algae. So now you have to service these things regularly (weekly), which is a wet and messy process. You've also got to feed it and water it (removing algae will inherently remove some of the water. Then what do you do with the algae? Feed it to people or burn it?

      Better to just get a solar cell that doesn't require

      • then you take the algae as a byproduct and make bio-fuels...
        • There's no energy left if you use it for light.
          Algae us used to convert organics to bio fuel. Any any bio-fuel scale operation would have no problem growing its own algae. So you'd be back at square 1 with excess algae and no place to put it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:48PM (#39910243)

    The video in the article describes something completely different from the text article.

    The thing, as described in the video, is completely useless for carbon sequestration purposes until electricity production is almost totally carbon-neutral (which won't be for many years).

    The thing, as described in the text, violates the first law of thermodynamics.

    At least one of them is grotesquely wrong, and possibly both. Either way, this lamp is utterly useless in an "underground parking garage," which is the proposed use as discussed in the video.

    • The video also tends toward a violation of the first law of thermodynamics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by formfeed ( 703859 )

      The thing, as described in the text, violates the first law of thermodynamics.

      The first law of thermodynamics is a universal law. Universal laws violate US sovereignty.

    • by dbet ( 1607261 )
      The problem with the article is it says something nonsensical. CO2 + algae = more algae + light + O2. This is exactly what all plants do, minus the light show. The article seems to suggest that CO2 turns into light. It doesn't work that way, outside of a star.
  • by hort_wort ( 1401963 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:50PM (#39910253)

    Am I the only one who was very much distracted seeing the constant screen transitions in the video? I could hardly focus on what was being said because I was trying to figure out what the finger was doing. -grumbles-

    • It's better that way. Keeps you from murdering snake oil salesmen.

    • by emaname ( 1014225 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:47PM (#39911567)

      Yup. It's annoying. The current generation of video producers are afflicted with the same behavior we saw in the early years of the web. Remember when people used the now infamous "blink" tag? Yah! It was a real treat to load a page with 20 blinking links. And this behavior was carried on with animated gifs. I remember opening pages that had lists with each list item bulleted with an animated gif; eg, a spinning ball or star, or a flashing diamond, etc. The next "craze" was to do all sorts of stuff with flash. I'm amazed how many sites are still doing all their nav in flash. The most recent bane to web design is jQuery. Take a look at the source of some pages once. It's astonishing just how many jQuery scripts are being used on some pages.

      [begin rant] Well, now video producers are going through the same thing. It's cool to video the person talking, but they're looking somewhere else entirely. Or they zoom on the person's eye or hands or mouth while the person is talking. Real cool! I know that always stimulates my interest.[/sarcasm]

      Now they're going absolutely freaking nuts using zooming in then out and back in, fast motion to slow back to fast, strobing, flashing, blurring, jerky images, a series of 30 images within 2 secs, etc. And NONE of the programs or ads using these effects contain ANY worthwhile information.

      I was always amused by the Ford truck commercials and just how juvenile and primitive they were. All big, block letters sliding around the screen. Brilliant! I swear a person has to be functioning full-time with their lizard brain to respond to a commercial like that.

      If I should happen to meet one of these video producers, I just might club him/her senseless. Then ask, "How's THAT for a special effect?"[/end rant]

      Aw nuts! I forgot to take my meds again. Excuse me. I have to go.

      • > If I should happen to meet one of these video producers, I just might club him/her senseless. Then ask, "How's THAT for a special effect?"[/end rant]

        Be sure to film it. It'll be a source of amusement for us, and perhaps a warning to others.

      • by Guignol ( 159087 )
        Why is this modded funny ?
        It is completely insightful, this pinpoints exactly the amateurism madness that crawls everywhere when 'special effects' overtake everything else
        It happens in movies, it happens in music...
        It happens in slashdot ! (oops I forgot to answer with *THIS* (But I did remember to complain about the moderation ;)))
    • I was more annoyed by that US guy who babbled whenever the French guy spoke.

      Haven't these people heard of subtitles?

      • (approximate quotes)
        reacting to a video that has a lot of words, including possibly cue cards with words on them (similar to but not the old Bob Dylan proto-video)

        Butthead: Words suck.
        Beavis: If I wanted to read, I'd go to school.

        Unfortunately, I think most people actually believe that.

  • by kolbe ( 320366 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:52PM (#39910263) Homepage

    With an atmosphere consisting of over 95% carbon dioxide, wouldn't a few million of these "pods" help the Terra-forming efforts of mars' atmosphere? Sure, it'd take a few MILLION years, but think of the possibilities here!

    On the note of the article, it sounds too good to be true really. I don't buy into the idea until a more scientific analysis has been done.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Mars' gravity isn't strong enough to retain an Oxygen-based atmosphere. Plus the weak magnetosphere doesn't prevent solar winds from stripping what atmosphere there is. Not a new idea, though -- Ray Bradbury (in the Martian Chronicles) wrote about using plants for the same.
    • Re:Mars? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:31PM (#39911487)

      atmosphere consisting of over 95% carbon dioxide

      It might be made up of interesting stuff for plants, but it is exceptionally sparse. At surface level (even at the lowest point) it is a mere 0.1675 psi where earth has a sea level pressure of around 14.69 psi. This leads plants to do some funny things. NASA has been experimenting with plants and low pressures for a while now but it isn't going all that well - the plants think there is a drought [nasa.gov] when the low pressure basically sucks all the moisture from them - even if they are hydrated very well.

  • by malakai ( 136531 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:57PM (#39910287) Journal

    Apparently Geek.com has it's own problems with editors & science....

    This article is completely incorrect.

    The total equation for oxygenic photosynthesis is:
    6CO2 + 12H2O + light C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O
    Broken down, the equations are:
    water + light -> chemical energy and gaseous oxygen (a waste product)

    (Historically called the "light reactions" because they require light. Photosystem II drives this light capture.)

    That chemical energy is then used to capture carbon dioxide to make carbohydrates or sugars:
    chemical energy from photosynthesis + carbon dioxide -> carbohydrates

    (Historically called the "dark reactions" because the two processes can be uncoupled. The enzyme Rubisco uses the chemical energy from photosynthesis to capture CO2, which goes on to make sugars, etc.)

    The carbohydrates can then be used for cellular functions OR as an energy source by the mitochondria, just like we as people use sugar as energy.These algae (What kind are they? I can't even find Pierre Calleja's research page. All I get is mixotrophic algae, which could be any number of algae. I'm assuming that it is a eukaryote like Chlamydomonas, but it could be a prokaryote like Synechocystis.) do NOT use carbon dioxide as an energy source. By definition, a mixotrophic algae CAN use carbon as an energy source, but NOT in the form of CO2, it must be in the form of sugar, acetate, etc.Furthermore, these lamps are NOT powered by the algae themselves. These lamps are powered by electricity to give the algae light to grow. That light then gives the algae the energy to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:12PM (#39910347)

      Pretty much sums up the whole thing.

      Sounds like the analogue of a perpetual motion machine, but for the carbon cycle.

      • I love the /., the great thing about nerds, is that given enough of them you have subject matters on everything, simply based on laws of statistics.(there is a one in whatever chance of a particular nerd being subject matter expect in field X)

        There have been a large number of shrewd advertisements and FUD posing as science and technology articles, but the commentors are damn good at sorting through whats, what.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Geek.com has it's own problems with editors"

      malakai has it is own problems with the apostrophe. What is it about this miniscule, tiny symbol that confounds, baffles and befuddles people?

  • Sounds like snake oil to me:

    First there's absolutely no mention of the mechanisms that provide energy - photosynthesis is implied and requires light, as the summary says. Therefore, the whole system requires light.

    Then, nobody cares to explain how exactly energy is stored in "batteries", much less how the light is powered. An electrical light is implied, so the storage is explained, but how is electricity produced? And why do they seemingly connect the system to a power supply?

    Does anyone have an explanatio

    • Sounds like snake oil to me:

      No, snake oil has to at least sound plausible. This is obviously nonsense to anyone with fourth grade education (my daughter learned about conservation of energy in fourth grade). Too bad that doesn't include Slashdot editors.

  • OK, the algae could use light and CO2 to synthesize reduced carbon compounds, which could then be oxidized in the dark to generate light. Basically, this is just a biological version of a solar lighting system. Sounds finicky to maintain, but maybe energy storage in algae could outperform conventional batteries. But the article implies that the lamp has a net consumption of CO2. That implies a net production of other organic compounds, because carbon atoms can't just vanish. So what happens to this carbon "

  • by UPZ ( 947916 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:08PM (#39910335)
    TFA: "Instead [the system] draws CO2 from the atmosphere and uses it to produce light as well as oxygen as a byproduct."

    Correct me if wrong, but the law of thermodynamics states that CO2 is in a lower energy state than carbohydrates + oxygen. So this system transforms a low energy product into a high energy product and releases light (even more energy) in the process?
    • by UPZ ( 947916 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:16PM (#39910357)
      The point is, if the article's assertions (as I understood) were to be true, then we have free energy:

      1) Burn carbon + oxygen --> CO2 + light (we currently do this)
      2) CO2 --> carbon/carbohydrates + oxygen + light (this is proposed by the new algae based system)
      3) Rise and repeat ...... (unlimited free light = unlimited free energy)

      Something's gotta give here...
  • You have to love those awfully photoshopped pictures in the video!
  • Pure snake oil (Score:4, Informative)

    by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:32PM (#39910443)
    He says in the video that they absorb a ton a CO2 a year. The US releases 5.5 billion tons a year so just this country would need 5.5 billion of these lamps to absorb it all. He also claims he's the only one that ever thought of using algae. There are a lot of people working in algae it's just you have to work on a large scale for it to have any affect.
  • by zrbyte ( 1666979 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:46PM (#39910505)

    I think this is just bad journalism. I suppose the lamp uses electricity to give light to the algae, which use this to store CO2 in carbohydrates. Not a very brilliant idea. If it was that brilliant we'd be reading about it from Nature or Science and not geek.com

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, if it were really brilliant, other people would be reading about it in Nature. We would be reading about it on geek.com, in an article that misrepresents the research in Nature in 6 different ways and doesn't provide enough information for us to locate the Nature article. That is, if we bothered to read the article at all.

      Because that is how we roll around here.

  • A green solution

  • All algae consumes C02. So do all tree leafs. Is photosynthesis a new discovery all of a sudden?
  • ...CO2? Don't these designers even think?

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @06:36PM (#39910775)

    Isn't it thermodynamically impossible to do this without USING energy?

    Plants take in CO2 and make oxygen all the time. But they use energy in the form of sunlight to do it. So if the plant can produce power in the dark without any light at all... How?

    Magic plant? Put a plant in a dark place with all the CO2 it wants... see how happy it is... it will die. Of course, then fungus and mold will eat it in the dark but that's a different family of life.

    This whole report sounds like pseudo-science. Not unlike those perpetual energy machines that cranks keep claiming to have invented in their garages with nothing more then some old soda cans and a dream.

    Here's another question, you know that guy that claimed to have cracked Fusion and wants to sell municipal grade fusion reactors? Well... where is he now? Claiming sudden technical difficulties owing to the fact that like all these other guys he made it up.

    I don't know if it's the inventor's fault in this case or just a stupid press. But this story doesn't add up.

    • If you had glowing fungi, then you could use supersensitive solar cells to draw energy from them and store it in batteries, but do fungi even suck up CO2? I think Hyroelectric power and wave energy as well as wind power will provide a good portion of green energy in the future.

      • I think fungi actually emit it.

        • Actually yes, I recall that mould gives off gas, that is why it smells.

    • That's probably the most insightful thing I've read so far (including the very moronic title and summary). CO2 is the final byproduct of any form of reduction mechanism because it's such a low energy state. It's why cars and fires spit it out, and we do too.

      Plants can only create hydrocarbons back from CO2 by using an external energy source like sunlight, and I'm wagering it's pretty improbable to imagine that this magical algae has managed to violate the fundamental laws of physics and thermodynamics to

      • I run into this sort of thing all the time and I find it disturbing because I'm not a scientist or any kind of expert. I'm just a moderately well rounded American... both in mind in body (hey, those cheese burgers were delicious.) And it seems like all too often the press, politicians, etc are making mistakes I was taught to spot in high school. I mean, this isn't even a college level mistake. This is a basic rudimentary failure to understand a fairly simple concept.

        Sorry to rant, but the one thing that ann

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @06:49PM (#39910841)
    What's to stop them from runaway population growth in the atmosphere. Night and day, knoshing on CO2 and making light all over the globe? In fact, why didn't they do exactly that eons ago? Maybe because what's describe is impossible.
  • Stop it, god damn it.

    GW is a problem.

    Global cooling that induces an ice age is murderous on a multibillion person scale.

    STOP IT. This means you, dear critical-thinking reader.

  • Does this make the Australian Carbon Tax redundant?

  • I'm pretty sure that whoever wrote the headline "Biochemist Creates CO2-Eating Light That Runs On Algae" has never learned anything beyond high-school physics...

    I honestly thought that this light was in some spectral or intensity regime, where a mechanism (which here is falsely advertised as eating) was discovered where light could chemically dissociate CO2 into more useful compounds, and that algae were the catalyst for this mechanism. A bit (lot) disappointing to read that it was a grotesquely overblown

  • Because it does not involve the rape of the free world's economies, which is the real objective of the global warming alarmists. This would be "geoengineering" which has been consistently rejected by these environmental extremists/fraudsters. Sooo... its not really worth reading, is it, since its Dead on Arrival.

  • Hidden in the video is the lamp cord running to the wall.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel