Microsoft looks to algae and fungi to construct green data centers

November 1, 2021 |

In Washington, Microsoft is looking ahead to the data centers of the future, which it believes may be built with algae bricks and use hydrogen for energy. 

The computer giant expects to build up to a hundred data centers to keep pace with the growing connectivity in everyday lives, but at the same time needs to meet its targets of becoming carbon-negative. Globally, data centers consume more energy than some entire countries. 

The algae bricks would help Microsoft avoid the use of steel and concrete, materials with heavy environmental footprints. The algae bricks would also sequester and store carbon. Tubes made mushrooms are also being considered for other infrastructure requirements. 

“We readily say the technology we need for five and ten years out doesn’t largely exist yet,” says JoAnn Garbin, director of innovation for the datacenter advanced development team, tells Fast Company. “We investigate what’s needed. And then we create it.”

Both the algae bricks and mushroom tubes are being piloted, Garbin adds. “They’re really only manufactured in lab scale right now. Our goal in advanced development is to demonstrate that they are one-for-one replacements from a performance standpoint, and structural standpoint…and then start incorporating it and create that marketplace to get them out of lab scale into commercial scale.” 

The company is also considering renewable materials for circuit boards. “The vision is that essentially, you can recycle, reuse, or biodegrade everything that you use,” says Karin Strauss, senior principal research manager in the Microsoft Research team. 

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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