An experimental apartment building in Hamburg, Germany is harnessing the power of the sun to generate power, but not in the way you expect. Photovoltaic cells are totally yesterdays news — the BIQ building gathers power using a bioreactor façade packed full of microalgae.
Large clear panels on the front of the building are where the microalgae are growing. These microscopic organisms behave like any other plant. They absorb sunlight, process carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. The algae flourish in a regular cycle, with the mature plants being harvested on occasion.
The process is highly efficient as it results in no additional carbon output, and algae produce more biomass by area than any other plant. Any light that is not absorbed by the algae can be captured by the façade and used to directly heat water or air when it’s chilly out. Failing either of those immediate needs, the heat can be piped down into borehole heat exchangers (an 80-meter deep hole filled with brine) for later use.