Algae Energy Pavilion
Explain your project in details:
Eutrophication occurs when the addition of excessive nutrients causes explosive algae growth in an aquatic environment. The decay of such abnormal growth depletes the oxygen in the water, killing off aquatic animals and destroying the natural habitat. Over the last decades, rapid industrialization and population growth have tremendously increased nutrient dumping, making eutrophication the most prevalent water problem globally. The Algae Energy Pavilion is a conceptual solution which aims to use solar energy to harvest toxic algal blooms and turn them into biofuel, thus simultaneously reversing eutrophication and increasing production in a sustainable practice. The Algae Energy Pavilion collects excess algae directly from the eutrophication blooms, stores and grows the algae in a waterside structure, then harvests and processes the algae in a connected refinery. Inspired from a willow tree, it is designed with branches laden with leaf-like pods dipping into the water. The algae is “sucked up” into the branches, then stored inside transparent pods where photosynthesis aids the growth of the algae. When the algae is ready to be harvested, they are taken into the refinery building at the other end of the structure and processed into biofuels and biomass material to be used or sold for profit. Flexible thin-film solar panels atop the pods harness solar energy for the energy requirements of the structure and refinery. CO2 from nearby sources are pumped into the bottom of the pods to help stir the algae and enhance growth. A membrane atop the pods releases oxygen produced from photosynthesis into the surrounding atmosphere. The algae-removed water is then returned into the aquatic environment. Instead of stunting production and limiting the nutrient sources, the pavilion quickly resolves eutrophication by removing the blooms and converting them into useful materials.
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
By resolving cultural eutrophication, the Algae Energy Pavilion addresses sustainable development by reversing climate pollution in restoring the natural aquatic environment, providing clean and sanitary water for human and wildlife use. Water is the lifeblood of the Earth. Conserving the natural aquatic environment keeps the water cycle healthy and efficient in balancing our atmosphere and providing essential food and moisture for the Earth’s living beings. In converting excess algae blooms into biofuels for affordable renewed energy and using solar power for its processes, the pavilion promotes innovative sustainable design practices for our industry and community infrastructure. In many cases, the pavilion can be used as a large-scale recreational waterside feature. In municipalities, the pavilion can be integrated into parklands as a shade structure similar to a tree. The clear pods allow the green hue of the algae to mimic leaves overhanging a rest area. Smaller plant trellises can be built to parallel the structure and provide a softer, more intimate environment. Recycled water would be used to water the plants, and visitors can use excess solar energy to charge personal electronics, increasing the recreational value of the pavilion while serving as an education center for responsible energy consumption and innovation. There are many measures of success for the Algae Energy Pavilion concept. For its main functions, we must understand its efficacy as a vertical farm for algae production and a biofuel refinery. Although algae grows readily, the leaf pods may need to be controlled to optimize the environment for algae growth. The algae-biofuel conversion is not a mature technology. We need to verify how efficient farmed natural algae is for producing biofuel. The pavilion also needs to be an efficient power plant of solar energy. Finally, the cost-benefit analysis for such an architecture is very important.
Sustainability and future plans
From its conceptual stage, the Algae Energy Pavilion requires scientific and engineering research before it can be implemented. We aim to partner with major research universities with grants from national or international agencies to study the efficacy of converting algae typically found in eutrophized waters into functional biofuels. We then find optimal growth conditions within the context of the pavilion structure. Engineering research should identify correct materials to use for watertight air exchange; heavy-duty transparent pods allowing for photosynthesis; pumps, valves, conduits, circuits and controls; and refinery setup. We will calculate power requirements versus allowable surface area for photovoltaic panels and plan for recreational use. Preliminary implementations of the Algae Energy Pavilion may extend research efforts and begin production within the university-municipality partnership, whereby the university may harvest biofuels for energy uses in exchange for the mitigation of municipal eutrophication. The municipality may collect biomass leftovers from algae-biofuel conversion to recycle into fertilizers and animal feed. Since efforts to limit nutrient dumping from large-scale industrial and agricultural sources are slow in reversing eutrophication and are often too limiting for healthy production and development, municipalities may propose pavilion sponsorship as an alternative to stringent penalties. The businesses may also be able to take ownership of the fuel and biomass as encouragement to further mitigation efforts or sustainable innovation. As the project matures, ownership may be purchased by energy companies to increase their supply offering and to diversify into sustainable alternative energies. Strategically, companies may be able to expand their marketing areas to locations where it is cost prohibitive for traditionally produced fuels to reach. At each stage of its business, the Algae Energy Pavilion aims to create a net gain for the players involved. As a viable vertical energy farm, the sustainability of the project should extend beyond its mitigation qualities.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
Chloe Huang is a 16-year old student at Lycee International de Los Angeles and a candidate for the Bilingual IB Diploma. She was first exposed to environmental science through interning at the Smith Research Lab at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. There, she examined microbially-driven engineered processes for water management. She studied visual arts at the Art Center College of Design. Chloe broadened her involvement as an advocate and leader through her participation as a Yale Young Global Scholar in Beijing, where she problem-solved solutions to global issues with other young scholars. Chloe currently interns at the NGO Time4Good which establishes communications with global leaders. Eager to contribute to our global fight against climate change, she studied sustainable architectural planning and design at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED). The Pavilion marks the culmination of Chloe’s passion for enhancing the environment and honing her design skills. She generated the idea at CED with the goal of creating a waterside architecture that resolves a global crisis, produces alternative energy, and interacts with its human surroundings. This summer, Chloe is attending the Social Ventures for Sustainable Development and Youth Assembly at the United Nations to learn to utilize global resources for project advancement. She is also creating a short documentary regarding Los Angeles’ use of shade balls in their reservoirs during its historic drought. Chloe hopes to inspire the next generation to focus on global sustainable advancements. She founded EcoYouthUnited to raise environmental awareness amongst youth and empower them to take action. She is also in process of publishing children’s books for the same purpose. Chloe loves to volunteer and is editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, a Level-10 pianist, and an award-winning dancer at the Abby Lee Dance Company. She also speaks 5 languages and is currently learning 2 more.