Algae Lamps: CO2 Absorbing Sustainable Lamps

Innovation created by: Fermentalg

Presentation written by: Jirah Taojo,

Presentation supervised by: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena M. BARBU,



             Algae lamps is a concept creation of Pierre Calleja, a French Biochemist, who, together with his team at Fermentalg designed an eco-friendly lamp that houses a culture of algae. The algae emits the light inside the lamp. Algae is a kind of fungi and protozoa that breeds in an aquatic environment. It is often found in ponds, lakes and streams. Photosynthesis, the food-making process of plants, lends itself to this technology. The lamp uses the energy created from photosynthesis to produce the light while the algae lives off from the carbon dioxide absorbed.

Fermentalg is a chemical industry company based in France. The company is composed of several experts in the field of biotechnology and has developed algae-based technological solutions. The company presents the benefits of microalgae properties through different lines of products. It also has created a food supplement line which consists of algal oil and natural food substitutes.

Since the company’s creation in 2009, it has been of interest to industrial investors. The great potential of Biotechnology is evident as the company has been presented to public offering and is listed in the Paris Stock Exchange.


1. The Innovation

Energy from bioluminescent algae culture is used to power eco-friendly lamps. This runs completely free of lithium-based power source, hence, it is completely self-sufficient. Plants use photosynthesis to produce energy; effectively, this allows the algae to store light energy in a form of chemical energy in a battery built inside lamp which can be converted to electricity for future use. The exact details of how energy from photosynthesis is converted to electricity remains unpublicized but several experiments demonstrate using electrodes to capture the excited electron produced when light strikes the algae’s chlorophyll.

One compelling reason for the use of this innovation is the biotechnology involved in the project. Recently, studies based on algal research have produced technological solutions such as food supplements, natural food additives and even biofuel. This innovation could be a start of a wave of algae produced power source. A prototype is setup at the parking space of the company’s headquarters in Bordeaux, France for further observations.

A company, Suez Group, showed interest in the innovation and intends to produce carbon sinks.



3. The Environmental Impact

             This innovation aims to mitigate the world’s increasing problems on pollution, global warming and threats to the ecosystem. Since the micro-algae lamp utilizes the process of photosynthesis, it absorbs carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. Researchers at Fermentalg claim the lamp can remove 1 ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year, which is ten times the approximate 0.10 tons of carbon dioxide sequestered by an ash tree in a year. One study suggested the lamp can remove 150-200 times more of unit of carbon dioxide compared to a tree. Basically, an algae lamp can remove as much carbon dioxide in one year as a tree would in its lifetime.

Also, extracting algae from aquatic environments, such as seas, lakes and rivers, could potentially save fish and other marine life since increase in algal blooms have caused widespread mortality due to harmful toxins that are released. Algal blooms occur when colonies of algae grow out of control and produce toxic harmful to human life. Algae extraction helps balance the aquatic life and marine ecosystems.

When the algae from the lamps die, these algae could be harvested and used for biofuels, which is another attractive feature of the lamps. These multiple advantages would benefit the environment on a long-term level.




4. The Viability of the Innovation

             As with other start-up innovations in the same level, the microalgae lamp is also met with challenges. The cost of this product has yet to be determined. To bring the technology to a wider scale would entail greater costs. Plant properties of algae is also of great concern. The maintenance of the lamp is not stated, these lamps need to be cleaned over time to prevent a murky buildup that would start to accumulate on the glass lamp. Also, since the lamps are taking the energy it would use to produce sugars and use it to power an electric light, the algae may die off quicker than their counterparts living in nature. This could lead to a frequent replacement of algae. In a similar vein, the susceptibility of algae to extreme weather conditions need to be evaluated.



             A French biochemist, Pierre Calleja, developed a use for the bioluminescence that naturally occurs in algae by introducing the first algae lamp. The algae lamp poses a solution to the increasing problem of CO2 pollution in the world. Based on research gathered by FermentAlg, the company which Pierre Calleja works with, 25% of pollution present in the air is CO2, and it increases in an alarming pace.

The algae lamp draws its power energy from the batteries that are charge by the algae’s photosynthesis and this provides electricity-free light solutions. Also, microalgae is more efficient in absorbing CO2 than trees, to the extent that each lamp absorbs a reported 150 to 200 times more CO2 than one tree. As with anything, reducing is always better and much more preferable than restoring. However, the viability in producing this innovation in a wider scale is still determined. Further research under FermentAlg is ongoing for the advancement of this technology.



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