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Sustainability-in-Tech : World’s First Bio-Circular Data Centre

French data centre company, Data4, says its new project will create a world-first way of reusing data centre heat and captured CO2 to grow algae which can then be used to power other data centres and create bioproducts.

Why? 

The R&D project, involving Data4 working with the University of Paris-Saclay, is an attempt to tackle the strategic challenge of how best to reuse and not to waste / lose the large amount of heat produced by data centres. For example, even the better schemes which use it to heat nearby homes only manage to exploit 20 per cent of the heat produced

Also, the growth of digital technology and the IoT, AI, and the amount of data stored in data centres (+35 per cent / year worldwide), mean that those in the data centre industry must up their game to reduce their carbon footprint and meet environmental targets.

Re-Using Heat To Grow Algae 

Data4’s project seeks to reuse the excess data centre heat productively in a novel new way. Data4’s plan is to use the heat to help reproduce a natural photosynthesis mechanism by using some of the captured CO2 to grow algae. This Algae can then be recycled as biomass to develop new sources of circular energy and reusing it in the manufacture of bioproducts for other industries (cosmetics, agri-food, etc.).

Super-Efficient 

Patrick Duvaut, Vice-President of the Université Paris-Saclay and President of the Fondation Paris-Saclay has highlighted how a feasibility study of this new idea has shown that the efficiency of this carbon capture “can be 20 times greater than that of a tree (for an equivalent surface area)” 

Meets Two Major Challenges 

Linda Lescuyer, Innovation Manager at Data4, has highlighted how using the data centre heat in this unique way means: “This augmented biomass project meets two of the major challenges of our time: food security and the energy transition.” 

How Much? 

The project has been estimated to cost around €5 million ($5.4 million), and Data4’s partnership with the university for the project is expected to run for 4 years. Data4 says it hopes to have a first prototype to show in the next 24 months.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

Whereas other plans for tackling the challenges of how best to deal with the excess heat from data centres have involved more singular visions such as simply using the heat in nearby homes or to experiment with better ways of cooling servers, Data4’s project offers a more unique, multi-benefit, circular perspective. The fact that it not only utilises the heat grow algae, but that the algae makes a biomass that can be used to solve 2 major world issues in a sustainable way – food security and the energy transition – makes it particularly promising. Also, this method offers additional spin-off benefits for other industries e.g., through manufacturing bioproducts for other industries. It can also help national economies where its operated and help and the environment by creating local employment, and by helping to develop the circular economy. Data4’s revolutionary industrial ecology project, therefore, looks as though it has the potential to offer a win/win for many different stakeholders, although there will be a two-year wait for a prototype.