Kat Barandy at designboom.com reports that London-based architecture and innovation firm ecoLogicStudio has unveiled Airbubble — the world’s first biotechnological playground to integrate air-purifying microalgae.
Led by Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, the project was designed for “Otrivin Breathe Clean,” an initiative which recognizes that 93% of the world’s children breathe polluted air while they play. Airbubble responds to the polluted atmosphere by introducing a purified microclimate for play — a bubble of clean air being demonstrated in the center of Warsaw, Poland.
Airbubble incorporates a cylindrical timber structure wrapped in a membrane protecting fifty-two glass algae reactors, creating an urban algae greenhouse. The space hosts ropes, foot pumps, and bouncy spheres, and can function as both playground and outdoor classroom. The white bubbling noise of the algae gardening system masks the surrounding urban noise to provide a calming atmosphere in which to play and interact.
The filtering process of the Airbubble is enhanced by the architectural form of the structure. The membrane — an evolution of the photosynthetica urban curtain system presented in Dublin, Ireland in 2018 by ecoLogicStudio — controls the microclimate inside the playground. The inverted conical roof membrane further stimulates the air recirculation and natural ventilation, which in turn keeps the play area clean.
Airbubble currently occupies a public green space outside of Warsaw’s Copernicus Science Centre — a site which will also host a dedicated exhibition illustrating the design innovation behind the invention of the project.
The Airbubble monitoring system integrates air pollution sensors and is connected to a data processing platform. This platform is capable of comparing measurements in real time and of highlighting the air quality index for six core pollutants: fine particulate PM2.5 and PM10, ground level ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). Airbubble is capable of absorbing 97% of the nitrogen and 75% of the particulate matter in the air.
Early data collected in May of 2021 shows concentrations of PM2.5 within the playground have fallen well within the recommended World Health Organization limits (green zone, AQI below 20). The peak reduction rate is 83%, calculated by comparing readings from a pollution sensor located outside Airbubble with real-time data feeds from a monitoring device placed inside.
The Airbubble hosts fifty-two large bioreactors in borosilicate glass which contain 520 liters of living green chlorella algae cultures that can filter a flow of polluted air of 200 liters per minute. While the liquid medium washes particles, the algae actively eat the polluting molecules as well as carbon dioxide to then release fresh clean oxygen.
Over the next few months, Airbubble will become a unique urban laboratory — a test bed of applied biotechnology and its application in tackling air pollution and in mitigating its effect on children’s health.
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