Futuristic phytoplankton farm could restore equilibrium in oceans

Sitbon Architectes
© Sitbon Architectes

Is geoengineering a good idea? It's hard to say; the spectre of a botched job looms large, while others concede that some geoengineering is likely to be inevitable. But geoengineering is still largely untested and any intended consequences are mostly likely irrevocable as well. In any case, it doesn't stop designers from wondering "what if," as Paris-based Sitbon Architectes are proposing in Bloom, a conceptual phytoplankton farm that sits on the sea, breeding the ecologically vital microscopic organisms in a bid to produce more oxygen, while simultaneously removing excess carbon dioxide from the sea.

© Sitbon Architectes

Seen over at Architizer, the semi-submersible sphere is anchored to the seafloor with a system of cables, providing a series of permanent outposts that can be inhabited by scientists studying rising sea levels. In this sense, Bloom can be a line of first defense in the monitoring of changes in climate, or alerting to impending natural disasters like tsunamis (though the interior rendering unfortunately looks less like a science outpost and more like a tacky hotel).

© Sitbon Architectes
© Sitbon Architectes

These phytoplankton farms can also be used to mitigate the growing number of so-called dead zones, where nitrogenous fertilizer run-offs have starved waters of oxygen. The designers characterize Bloom as a "catalyst structure" that acts as a "matrix pocket of oxygen on Earth," able to provide on-site environmental regulation wherever it's needed, in addition to converting saltwater into a freshwater supply. There's also a chamber to store (produced?) biodiesel that fuels the whole farm.

© Sitbon Architectes
© Sitbon Architectes

It's an intriguing design that synthesizes various ideas about remediating ecosystems, and is at least a more refined approach than dumping tons of iron straight into the sea to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. But good design doesn't do much unless it's shored up with corresponding changes in policy, and getting to the root of the problem: the burning of fossil fuels. More over at Architizer and Sitbon Architectes.

Tags: Architecture | Geoengineering | Oceans

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