Recently, two European architects Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, have developed plant-filled plastic curtains called “living walls” that help purify dirty and smokey air.
The curtains contain a mazelike network of tubes filled with microscopic algae, which remove carbon dioxide from the air, pumping out oxygen via the carbon-sequestering process known as photosynthesis. Air flows into the bottom of the curtains and rises through the tubes, feeding the microalgae along the way.
Algae curtains and cladding can capture and store up to one kilogram of carbon dioxide per day.
“Microalgae have unique properties that have been discovered by the biologists that allow them to re-metabolize some of the waste that our city generates. What we’ve done is try to understand how we can integrate microalgae in the urban environment,” said Claudia Pasquero, an architect with the London-based firm EcoLogicStudio.
Marco Poletto said that they foresee a strong market for the eco-friendly curtains, especially for use on warehouses and other large buildings valued more for their function than their appearance. They said the curtains might sell for $350 a square meter.
Poletto said that they were inspired to develop the eco-friendly curtains after noticing an abundance of algae in ponds near their office.
Last month, the architects displayed an early demo of the curtains in Ireland, covering the first and second floors of Dublin Castle with more than a dozen of the drapes.
The curtains used to cover the castle can suck more than two pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each day, according to the architects. That’s roughly the amount removed each day by 20 large trees, they said.
According to the design team, this particular module “is particularly suitable for retrofit as it is very lightweight, soft, adaptable, and does not require heavy substructures to be installed.”
“As we collaborated with microbiologists and learned more and more about the algae’s potential, it became kind of an obsession,” Poletto said. “For us, the aspect of design is really essential,” Pasquero said, “so it’s not simply a technological innovation — it’s a design solution.”
“Smart cities, smart homes, autonomous vehicles, robotic factories, etcetera dominate the current panorama of popular futuristic scenarios, but they all desperately need spatial and architectural re-framing to engender beneficial societal transitions,” said EcoLogicStudio.
Designers such as Nicolas Roope answered to the UN report, by calling the need to avert climate change “the greatest design challenge in history”.
Presently, the firm is researching a mass-market prototype that will aim the large shed or warehouse typology, with a goal to cover the large surfaces of malls, distribution centers, and data centers.