London’s New Pollution-Eating Solar Panels Could Help Fight Climate Change

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor

Biosolar Leaf

Having launched yesterday, the biosolar leaf project could be coming to a rooftop near you.

It’s not exactly a secret that London’s air is heavily polluted, nor has anyone forgotten that climate change is dramatically harming our planet and way of life. Still, actionable improvements have been a little scarce thus far, so when a potential remedy does appear, it’s good to shout about it. Particularly when it’s London leading the charge, as is the case with the world’s first ‘biosolar leaf‘, which launched in the capital yesterday.

See also: Just how bad is the air pollution on the Tube? (Hint: REALLY BAD).

A collaboration between Imperial College London, and environmental tech startup Arborea, the biosolar leaves are a rather nifty invention. The technology speeds up the rate of photosynthesis, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen – a process achieved by cultivating blue-green algae and phytoplankton on huge panels. Arborea have made the lofty claim that they’re actually more effective than trees, boasting that one acre of the bionic leaves will sequester as much carbon and emit as much oxygen as one hundred acres of forest.

Biosolar Leaf
Arborea previously displayed their biosolar technology at the V&A Museum, in the form of this ‘bionic chandelier’. Photo: @life.as.seen.by.mel

The upsides are pretty huge, even beyond the obvious boon of cleaner air for the capital. The biosolar leaf project could reduce the need for large-scale reforestation, which means no messing with the soil, and the favoured city-centre rollout targets pollution in the places where it’s worst. There’s also the handy side-effect of growing plant proteins, which could provide a low-intensity food source as a byproduct – making this project delicious as well as sustainable.

All that, however, is a little way off. The first pilot panels have been installed at Imperial College’s campus out in White City, so we’re a few rigorous trials away from seeing them rolled out across London’s rooftops. Still, the scheme could be revolutionary if it’s found to be a success – and it would bring a whole new angle to rooftop dining, too…

Find out more about Arborea’s work on their website.

Featured image: Imperial College London // Thomas Glover

Also published on Medium.

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