Air Purifying Eco Machine: Biotechnological Playground

ecoLogicStudio

Architects: ecologicStudio
Location: Glasgow, UK
Year: 2021
Photography: NAARO

On the occasion of COP26 – the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, which took place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow – ecoLogicStudio presented two projects related to air pollution and carbon neutrality: the Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine and the BioFactory system.

Both on-going research projects, integrating the PhotoSynthetica technology, which was pioneered by the studio, were developed in accordance with some of the main goals of the event, such as reaching net zero emissions by the middle of the century, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and building resilient infrastructures.

Following the successful Air Bubble biotechnological playground project built in Warsaw (Poland), ecoLogicStudio presents the Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine, which was installed in front of the Glasgow Science Centre within the COP26’s Green Zone area. The project was developed in partnership with Otrivin®.

The eco-machine is made of 99% air, water and living photosynthetic air-purifying Chlorella cultures. This new bio-digital project demonstrates how the advanced integration of biotechnology in the built environment can lead to a new generation of living, growing architectures, where beauty and efficient ecological performance are combined.

 

“With the Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine, beauty becomes a true measure of ecological intelligence,” says Prof. Claudia Pasquero, ecoLogicStudio co-founder; UCL and UIBK professor of biodigital architecture.

 

The project encourages visitors, and especially children, to directly interact and experience the air cleaning capabilities of micro algae cultures, while immersing themselves into a bubble of freshly metabolized oxygen. The playful softness of the organic structure, akin to a gigantic bouncy jellyfish, is a direct manifestation of the biotechnology it integrates.

Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine is also ecoLogicStudio’s first pneumatic bioreactor. It contains 6,000 liters of water supporting 200 liters of living Chlorella cultures filtering 100 liters of polluted urban air every minute. The air and water pressures are contained by a TPU membrane that is only 0.5 mm thick and that takes up only 5% in weight and 1% in volume of the overall structure. The overall strength of the structure is made possible by its three-dimensional cellular organization. To achieve this result, the fabrication process entailed the complete unfolding of the structure shape into almost 100 CNC cut flat parts which were then welded into position to form a fully three-dimensional matrix of inflatable cells.

This process updates the traditional qualities of inflatable structures to create the eco-machine. The result is a responsive system with air purifying capability, exceptional wind resistance and unique deployability. The incredible lightness of the empty membrane makes it uniquely low in embodied carbon and minimizes emissions associated with transportation, installation and dismantling.

The outdoor membrane is monitored in real time by an array of accelerometers, sensing the wind and inducing vibrations in the pneumatic structure. These sensors activate a responsive array of grow lights that in turn support algal photosynthesis, thus increasing the air purification activity. The entire bio-digital organism evolves a new kind of symbiosis, whereby the more people play the cleaner the air becomes.

The filtering process is further enhanced by the architectural morphology of the structure. The TPU membrane – an evolution of the PhotoSynthetica urban curtain system presented by ecoLogicStudio in Dublin in 2018 – controls the microclimate inside the bubble. The inflatable membrane’s doors stimulate air recirculation and natural ventilation.

Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine combines a lightweight inflatable technology with 24 photobioreactors (12 on each side) that are hosted in the inflatable system to create a unique microclimate inside the structure. A constant air circulation stream absorbs six core pollutants: fine particulate PM2.5 and PM10, ground level Ozone (O3), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO). The project is capable of absorbing 97% of the nitrogen and 75% of the particulate matter in the air.

Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine is a tangible vision of how a net zero civilisation can clean its pollution, produce its energy, grow its food and construct its buildings in the next 30 years, starting now.