ecoLogicStudio’s bubble play area filters the air with micro-algae cultures

London-based architecture and innovation firm ecoLogicStudio unveils ‘airbubble’ as the world’s first biotech playground to incorporate air-purifying micro-algae. led by claudia pasquero and marco poletto, the project was designed for ‘otrivin breathe clean’, an initiative that recognizes that 93% of the world’s children breathe in polluted air while playing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the biggest threat to global health. ‘airbubble’ responds to the reality of our polluted atmosphere by introducing a purified microclimate for play — a veritable bubble of clean air in the center of Warsaw.

pictures © Maja Wirkus

with its “air bubble” play area, ecoLogicStudio incorporates its photo.synthetica technology for the advanced integration of photosynthesis into the built environment. made for otrivin breathe clean, airbubble invents a new architectural typology. it incorporates a cylindrical wooden structure wrapped in an ETFE membrane protecting fifty-two glass algae reactors, creating an urban algae greenhouse. the space accommodates ropes, foot pumps and inflatable spheres, and can serve as both a playground and an outdoor classroom. the bubbling white noise of the seaweed gardening system masks the surrounding urban noise to create a soothing atmosphere in which to play and interact.

ecologicstudio air bubble

the air bubble filtering process designed by ecoLogicStudio is enhanced by the architectural form of the structure. the ETFE membrane — an evolution of the photosynthetica urban curtain system presented in dublin in 2018 by ecologicstudio — controls the microclimate inside the playground. the inverted conical roof membrane further stimulates air recirculation and natural ventilation, which in turn keeps the play area clean. airbubble occupies public green space outside warsaw copernicus science center — a site which will also host a dedicated exhibition illustrating the design innovation behind the invention of the project.

ecologicstudio air bubble

the air bubble monitoring system integrates urban air pollution sensors and is connected to a data processing platform. this platform is able to compare measurements in real time and highlight the air quality index for six main pollutants: fine particles PM2.5 and PM10, tropospheric ozone (O3), carbon dioxide, nitrogen (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). the air bubble is capable of absorbing 97% of the nitrogen and 75% of the particles in the air.

ecologicstudio air bubble

the first data collected in May 2021 shows that PM2.5 concentrations in the playground have fallen well within the limits recommended by the WHO (green zone, AQI below 20). the maximum reduction rate is an impressive 83%. this figure was calculated by comparing readings from a pollution sensor located outside the air bubble with real-time data streams from a monitoring device placed inside. the monitoring phase will continue throughout the summer and into the fall to verify these promising achievements over a longer period, under different climatic conditions and modes of use.

ecologicstudio air bubble

over the next few months, airbubble will become a unique urban laboratory — a test bed for applied biotechnology and its application to combating air pollution and mitigating its effects on children’s health. the air bubble houses fifty-two large borosilicate glass bioreactors that contain 520 liters of live cultures of green chlorella sp algae capable of filtering a polluted airflow of 200 liters per minute. as the liquid medium washes away the particles, the algae actively eat polluting molecules as well as carbon dioxide to release fresh, clean oxygen.

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