Algae energy at London2011

Design meets science: A concept project looks at creating renewable energy through the photosynthesis of algae and moss

Designers and scientists at Cambridge University are creating devices capable of producing renewable energy through the photosynthesis of algae and moss.

The results of their research are just some of what is on show in the Design in Science exhibition at Designersblock during the London Design Festival.

The team is working on a project that creates various domestic applications for this biophotovoltaic (BPV) technology, such as a moss table and solar panels. They explain that “the purpose of the table is to demonstrate through a familiar domestic object, that this early stage technology has potential in everyday aspects of our lives”.

The designers and scientists have also conceputalised a near shore generator that harvests desalinated water. The power station has several giant floating “lily pads” covered in algae. The power output per unit area of such a BPV power station would match that of an equivalently sized offshore wind farm. The team have also proposed a forest of solar collecting masts that can be located inland, and which would draw water either from the ground or from rainfall to keep the algae alive.

The primary challenge with BPV technology is that it may need years of development before it is properly realised.