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The London-based studio ecoLogicStudio has recently showcased a prototype of its so-called urban algae canopy at the “Feeding the Planet” expo in Milan. The urban algae canopy is a bio-digital structure filled with fluid that contains microalgae organisms. These are pumped around the otherwise transparent structure and are capable of producing oxygen, biomass energy and dynamic shade. They also respond to the presence of visitors and can produce very interesting visual effects.

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There are a series of tubes, which move the microalgae around to the transparent panels, which make up the exterior of the structure. This is possible due to the special CNC welding technology employed to create the structure, which also allowed ecoLogicStudio to design and control the morphology of the cushioned panels under stress and guide the liquid through them.

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The prototype of the canopy is a small installation, but the firm plans to make a larger version to demonstrate at the 2015 Expo Milano Future Food District. The larger Urban Canopy will be able to produce an amount of oxygen equal to that produced by four hectares of forest. It will also be capable of producing 150 kg of biomass, of which 80 percent will be in the form of natural vegetal proteins.

In direct sunlight the microalgae turn green due to photosynthesis, while also growing, which offers natural shade. The canopy is also capable of responding to the presence of people, since as they walk by, electro valves are triggered that alter the speed of the algae as they move through the panels of the canopy.

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According to ecoLogicStudio the goal of this project is to bring together industry and nature, which are all too often separated at the expense of the environment. Basically they seem to be using machinery to bring nature back, which is a unique concept. The first practical application of the Urban Canopy has not yet been announced, though I think many uses, in residential and industrial/commercial architecture, could be found.