Inspenet, December 25, 2023.
The project known as Liquid 3 (liquid tree), developed by the Multidisciplinary Research Institute of the University of Belgrade in Serbia, presents a sustainable alternative for urban environments with limited space or high levels of pollution, where tree planting is impractical.
These urban photobioreactors take advantage of the ability of microalgae to absorb CO 2 , generate oxygen and biomass, being, according to experts, “between 10 and 50 times more efficient than a tree.”
YPF has joined this initiative by installing this type of “liquid tree” in one of its service stations. The microalgae module in this “liquid tree” uses CO 2 and air for its growth, contributing to the purification of the environment. Each unit of this liquid tree, known as Y-Algae and developed in collaboration with the company Y-TEC and Inbiotec-Conicet, is estimated to be equivalent to approximately 20 young forest trees in terms of its ability to purify the air.
A portion of the module is updated regularly and the microalgae used in it, when they reach the end of their life cycle, are used as fertilizer for the soil.
How does the liquid tree work?
Priscilla Minotti, professor and researcher at the School of Habitat and Sustainability of the University of San Martín (Unsam), explained that this structure consists of a large water container with transparent walls and unicellular green freshwater microalgae.
“A pump continuously injects air from the environment (with high levels of CO 2 ) and circulates the water so that the algae, through photosynthesis, absorb the CO 2 and release oxygen, like other photosynthetic organisms such as trees,” he added. .
This biotechnological technology replaces the function of a tree or the equivalent of two hundred square meters of grass, according to the Serbian developers on their website. They highlighted that its main advantages include environmental aspects, by adopting an alternative approach to ecological sustainability; economic benefits, thanks to the efficient use of public space and social benefits, by promoting greater awareness about environmental protection.
“The benefits of microalgae are many. They have the ability to divide and grow when in appropriate conditions, and are capable of photosynthesis. That is, they use CO2, fix it to generate biomass and in the process of photosynthesis they release oxygen“Maria Mar Areco, Conicet researcher and Unsam teacher, explained to this agency.
In relation to the effectiveness of “substituting” the planting of trees in urban environments with high levels of pollution or “space limitations”, the expert indicated that, although these devices fulfill their function, the systemic benefits that trees provide in any environment, especially in cities, go beyond simple oxygen production and “partial air remediation.”
The “liquid tree” of Serbian origin features a rectangular configuration that includes a solar panel, night lighting, a pond that houses microalgae, a USB port for charging devices and a seat that can seat three to four people.
Regarding the composition of these trees, Minotti pointed out that their design incorporates materials whose production is not sustainable, such as flat glass, steel and solar panels. In addition, Areco warned that, since microalgae have continuous growth, it is necessary to eliminate old or deceased biomass and renew it constantly.
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