Environment / Startups

Meet the Aerium: An algae air purifier created by IMET PhD candidates

Baltimore-based AlgenAir is launching the product that's designed to clean the air in a home or office.

AlgenAir cofounders Kelsey Abernathy and Dan Fucich. (Courtesy photo)

Last week, Baltimore-based AlgenAir released the Aerium, an air purifier that uses algae to clean the air in a home or office.

Algae is responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon fixation, due to the capacity for individual algae cells to capture CO2. Most of this carbon capture occurs in the vast ocean, but AlgenAir is looking to bring it to the living room. Cofounders Kelsey Abernathy and Dan Fucich are leading this charge to bring the capabilities and benefits of algae to the public.

Abernathy and Fucich met through the PhD program at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore-based Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology studying aquaculture and algae carbon capture, respectively. During their third year of graduate school, they then went through the IMET REEF program, where young scientists cultivate leadership and business skills to help commercialize their research.

This program sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in both Abernathy and Fucich, and they soon applied to The GRID Pitch competition, so named for the University of Maryland, Baltimore space where it’s held, to develop potential product ideas. When their pitch received a flood of positive feedback, they decided to pursue the idea and AlgenAir was born.

Following The Grid Pitch, AlgenAir was selected for the inaugural F3 Agtech accelerator class in the fall of 2018. From there, the project gained momentum as they won a number of pitch competitions, including placing first in the DC Hardware Cup in February 2019, first place in their track at the New Venture Championship in Portland. This year, they returned to the UMB GRID Pitch, where AlgenAir received the highest honor: the minimum viable product (MVP) award.

The Aerium.

The Aerium.

Last week, AlgenAir launched pre-sales for their limited release of 200 units of the Aerium. The product represents a combination of algae growth, air purification, and rapid prototyping. The cofounders have partnered with American Bully Manufacturing, a Maryland firm which offers product design and manufacturing services. Each Aerium is manufactured and assembled in Laurel, Maryland, and will be shipped to doorsteps across the country starting this fall.

The result is an air purifier designed to be used in a 10 foot by 12-foot room. The Aerium is designed not just as an air purifier, but also as a piece of functional home decor. Its construction includes durable premium glass that holds 1.5 liters of algae suspended in distilled water. The in-line particle air filter allows carbon dioxide-rich air to enter the system, while simultaneously removing dust, potential allergens and harmful bacteria from the air. Because the Aerium uses algae in concert with a traditional filter, it addresses both carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

The Aerium comes with an easy-to-assemble base that contains a 0.2 micron filter, which is a glass container that holds 1.5 liters, silicon lid, and 0.1 micron filter to prevent contamination from falling into the bioreactor.

AlgenAir will be working with a variety of algae strains to offer their customers a variety of color options, and the initial launch will include Chlorella algae, a strain with a rich green pigment. After the algae has grown for two months, it can be used for compost or plant fertilizer. To keep the air in the home as clean as possible, a new packet of algae, algae food, and replacement filters will be provided in a bi-monthly subscription.


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