The Purple-B project, funded by the European Space Agency, is a prototype for the production of biohydrogen thanks to the purple bacteria that populate the Venice Lagoon. The photobioreactor is capable of degrading wastewater and biological waste from astronauts to produce hydrogen gas.

The Purple-B project

Luigi Avantaggiato 2024

THESE curious experiments are products of the Green Propulsion Laboratory in Venice, Italy: a publicly owned research centre exploring new ways to rehabilitate the environment and generate energy. An unusual mix of scientists, engineers and psychologists at the lab have created prototypes that harness natural organisms to do useful jobs, often taking on a sculptural aspect as a side effect that attracts resident artists.

“Despite being objects of science, there is beauty,” says photographer Luigi Avantaggiato. He spent time cataloguing devices such as Purple-B (shown above), which uses a bacterium called Rhodopseudomonas palustris, commonly found in the Venice lagoon, to convert human waste into useful hydrogen. The experiment has been funded by the European Space Agency as it could provide a way to process astronauts’ waste in orbit and create usable fuel, but it could be of use on Earth’s surface too.

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The main laboratory of the Green Propulsion Lab of the Veritas Group, an advanced multidisciplinary platform for the development of green chemistry technologies, bioenergy production, innovative decarboning processes and the construction of third generation biorefineries with a view to the green reconversion of the industrial center of Porto Marghera.

The main laboratory of the Green Propulsion Lab of the Veritas Group

Luigi Avantaggiato 2024

The bright green contents of several tanks in the lab (pictured above) are what is known as the Liquid Forest, a project in which tiny algae, such as Chlorella, capture the carbon dioxide that is warming our planet. Each tank contains 250 litres, and every cubic centimetre of that can hold around a billion algae.

Researcher at work in one of the GPLabs laboratories. The Green Propulsion Laboratory is also an incubator for several innovative start-ups operating in the field of environmental technologies and sustainability.

Researcher at work in one of the GPLabs laboratories.

Luigi Avantaggiato 2024

Another shot (pictured above) shows a geodesic dome in which environmental engineers from a start-up called 9-Tech are working on new ways to recover silicon from obsolete solar panels.

The whole lab site was created by Veritas, which handles the waste and water supply for around a million residents and 50 million tourists in Venice and Treviso.

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