A team of final year undergraduate students from the Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Sciences emerged as first prize winner in the South East Asia Global Innovation Challenge (SEA-GIC 2020) Pitching Competition. The project was led by Muhammad Amir Shafiq Mohd Suhaimi together with Teoh Yee Jing, Kee Wei Min and was advised by Dr Mohd Farizal Ahmad Kamaroddin. They beat other university teams from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The theme for this year was “Battling climate change thru Chemistry” and chemistry-related projects in the area of CO2 utilization, renewable energy, and green chemistry, transportation and building were most welcome as a part to protect the planet.
The winning project proposed a ‘dwi-mode’ hybrid system of microalgae reactor and solar-powered streetlight, named “AlgoLight”, aimed to reduce GHG and CO2 emission, and combat climate change as the final goal. This project core idea was innovating a stand-alone fully solar-powered system intended for microalgae cultivation besides street lighting. AlgoLight consists of a solar leaf, with airlift system, storage and disposal tank, batteries and led lamps. Solar power as clean energy to support the pumping and aeration for microalgae growth during the daytime, and excess energy stored for lighting at night. While electricity generation is responsible for 25% of GHG emission, becoming the major contributor to climate change, AlgoLight was realizing zero-carbon electricity generation, and targeting the goal of “negative-carbon emission”. This works as microalgae transformed surrounding CO2 into oxygen and microalgae residue can act as a sustainable biomass source. As roadside lighting, AlgoLight has maximized its benefits since car exhaust account for over 20% of CO2 in the air. For the future prospect, the solar system may be replaced by bio-photovoltaics to generate and harvest energy from microalgae’s photosystem directly. This innovation would be incredible attainment in averting the worst impacts of climate change and becoming the foundation in developing green cities.