Bio-Balloon Tower: Generating renewable energy from an invasive plant – eVolo

Skyscraper Competition 2021
editors Choice

Raymond Yoo, Park Yejin, Angela Yeom
New Zealand

Water hyacinth is an aquatic plant native to Amazonian basins, but it is a very problematic invasive species outside of its natural habitat. Lake Victoria is one of many places damaged by water hyacinths. These changes have put people in a difficult situation, especially since Kenya depends on Lake Victoria for food and economy.

Another problem facing the country is health problems due to poor indoor air quality. An average pen survey of Kenyan household indoor air pollution in 2017 showed it to be three times higher than the standard given by the WHO. This can lead to bronchial problems and, in extreme cases, even lead to death. In households without electricity or clean gasoline, coal, wood and kerosene are the main sources of fire. Small particles that escape from cooking enter the lungs, causing problems. As is the case, if more households are supplied with electricity, more people will be able to cook in a better environment.

The bio-balloon tower aims to solve both problems by turning water hyacinth into biogas that can generate renewable energy. The building is installed on a lake to minimize transport and treatment time. This feature allows workers and villagers to park their boats near the tower and immediately discard collected water hyacinth. The tower is designed to be narrow and tall to reduce its footprint on the lake. The whole process can be broken down into three different stages, solid, liquid and gaseous.

The bio-balloon tower uses the principle of three states of matter to efficiently transfer water hyacinth through the tower vertically. It starts from the bottom where the plant is in a solid state. As it becomes less dense, the plant climbs higher in the tower. It reaches the top when it is in a gas state and wears down to generate energy.