This Photosynthetic Algae Roof Filters the Neighborhood Air

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Let's take rooftop farming to a whole new level—a microscopic level. Unveiled at Expo Milan this week, the Urban Algae Canopy is a living, breathing alternative to our inert roofs and facades. Could algae be the next hip trend in urban agriculture?

Urban Algae Canopy imagines the untapped potential of ordinarily inanimate surfaces. A digitally controlled system of tubes keeps the microorganisms happy with air and water depending on the weather outside. From sunlight and carbon dioxide, the algae make oxygen. The finished canopy is supposed to produce as much oxygen as four hectares of woodland, which sounds pretty extraordinary. (Does it sound feasible, biology-minded readers out there?)


Also intriguing is the idea that the algae are more than just a buildup of green slime. Plenty of companies are keen to harness the potential of algae in food, cosmetics, energy, pharmaceuticals, and more; there's been a veritable bubble in microbial interest.

The green city of the future could be green with algae. Someday, our walls and roofs could become thin, flat factories, supplying us with energy and raw materials inches from our doorstep. [Carlo Ratti Associati]