Sarah Ghaemi ’20 MS Arch graduates from the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture this December. But at that point, she will be just getting started working on a prototype invention she is developing that will be funded thanks to a Fall 2020 Student Innovation Challenge award from UArizona’s Tech Launch Arizona.
Ghaemi’s proposal—Algae Heat-Sink and Air Purifier—is an algae-based biosystem capable of heating, cooling and purifying indoor air, decreasing reliance on mechanical systems and therefore reducing building energy consumption. The enclosed biosystem reacts to the amount of light it receives and so can be used to either cool or heat its surroundings. It is a biophilic response to building indoor air quality, as well, since it operates as a natural purifier. The system also “increases the liveliness of the space by visualizing the life cycle of these living beings,” says Ghaemi, referring to the algae.
More broadly, the system—which can be integrated into indoor features such as benches or other furniture—can help greenhouse gas emissions and climate change through carbon dioxide sequestration.
Ghaemi’s proposal is impacted both by her research as part of CAPLA’s Master of Science in Architecture program, under the guidance of Associate Professor of Architecture Aletheia Ida, and also by her experience since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What the pandemic has shown us is our dependence on the built environment and how inefficient and unprepared our buildings can be for unpredictable situations,” she says.
Now that Ghaemi’s project has been selected—along with four other student team proposals from across the university—she will work with Tech Launch Arizona on a statement of work, milestones and budget for the project, beginning in December. She expects product development to take at least six months once the scope of work is in place.
“I have been trying to serve the community in multiple ways since the beginning of the pandemic,” says Ghaemi, who came to CAPLA to study sustainability and energy efficiency after earning a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology. “I see this project as an exciting, innovative way to make a difference—and I am honored and delighted to move the project forward with support from Tech Launch Arizona.”