Coccolithophores and Climate Change

University of Arizona astrobiologist Daniel Apai and biosystems engineer Joel Cuello work in the lab to harness the power of coccolithophores. The single-celled marine algae use atmospheric carbon dioxide and calcium from saltwater to create intricate shells made of calcium carbonate. The shells are made from a very stable, chalk-like mineral. They can be grown efficiently, then stored to trap carbon dioxide.

The lab’s photobioreactor makes it possible to efficiently grow large amounts of algae. And because the algae are grown in a controlled environment, within polyethylene bags, they are protected from predators.

The two researchers patented the use of coccolithophore algae for carbon dioxide removal in this kind of photobioreactor, and they say their air accordion photobioreactor is also easy to scale up. They hope to continue to optimize the design for more efficient coccolithophore growth and carbon uptake.

Credits: Chris Richards, Mikayla Mace Kelley, University of Arizona, KGUN 9

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