Puebla, in central Mexico, is one of the country’s and the world’s most polluted cities.
But it is also where a new type of air purifier got its start. The filtration system has won international recognition for its use of micro-algae to clean the atmosphere.
It’s called the BioUrban and was invented by biologist and entrepreneur Carlos Monroy.
“Algae has the ability to break down compounds faster than trees. There is a statistic which tells us that 75 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from the sea, precisely from these organisms,” Monroy said. “And over the course of a day, they can multiply two or three times, so this natural characteristic allows it to process large quantities of oxygen.”
His invention recently won the prestigious Innovation Award at the Contamination Expo Series 2018, held in Birmingham, England.
Using only algae, the sunlight, and a simple pump to push the air through it, the BioUrban purifier contributes the same amount of oxygen to the atmosphere as 400 trees. The enormous potential of the photosynthesizing algae has been harnessed across the city at heavy traffic intersections.
Alberto Vivas, the minister for transport in Puebla City, says residents have embraced the purification system.
“They like it when you can offer them more public spaces,” Vivas said. “Also while being in a city, that you can be in a place where there are trees, or you can be peaceful, and you can have a relaxing moment in the middle of it all.”
There are also plans by BiomiTech, the purifier’s parent company, to install systems within the London Underground railway system.
But algae’s potential is not limited to air purification and it is a science that algae biologist Rocio Ramirez says can change the world.
“From these small organisms we can obtain fats, carbohydrates and proteins, which can be used for food, as well as energy, and also for bio-medicine,” Ramirez said. “There are many organizations around the world which are betting on algae.”