035 - Air Bioremediation And Living Walls With Dr. Alan Darlington

How Soil Microbes Living in Biofilters Can Clean Indoor Air

Alan Darlington

This episode, we talk with Dr. Alan Darlington about his work with air bio-filtration.

Dr. Darlington was awarded his PhD investigating the interaction between plants and their physical environment from the University of Guelph, in Canada.

He spent 6 years as a member of a research team developing biological life support systems for long term space habitation, and is the “inventor” of a number of patents integral to the application of plant based biofilters that arose from research.

In 2005, he was named by Outdoor Magazine as one of the 25 top “true believers” in the environmental movement, for his work with plant biofilters, and he’s received a number of awards for academic and entrepreneurial accomplishments.

Come nerd out with me as Dr. Darlington graces us with his depth of knowledge and understanding, in all things bioremedial!


You can find out what Alan is up to, and reach out to him at www.alandarlington.ca

If you want a little inspiration on how you can start to live a probiotic life, check out our Instagram @theprobioticlife 

Thanks to all who are supporting this journey. You can support… patreon.com/probioticlife


I hope this interview has got you thinking about new ways you can create life around you. Thanks for listening!



Dr. Alan Darlington

- spent a lot of time as a youth walking through the bush, wanted to turn it into a career

- got degree in horticulture, every plant has value

- the importance of how things all fit together, how plants are affected by their environment

- PhD in how atmospheric conditions influences plant physiology and growth

- worked on waste disposal in closed environments, e.g. space stations

- realised this same technology could be used worldwide


New Technologies for Clean Air

- living walls

- people spend very little time outside

- indoor air quality is hard to maintain, indoor items give off gases

- can we generate fresh air indoors?

- “virtual outdoor air” with living wall technology

- biofiltration: used industrially; microbes take the waste in the air and eat it

- phytoremediation: more for brown fields (contaminated soils); introduce green plants that hasten the growth of beneficial microbes

- hydroponics: wall of coarse growth media, with water circulating through it; plants feed microbes, microbes clean the air


Aha! Moments

- discussion of spider plants & formaldehyde research experiment

- Dr. Alan was inspired by this example



- VOCs (“the stinks and the smells”) being released all the time from products and people

- these are lesser than they were 20 years ago

- discussion of VOC studies

- currently, people are forced to choose between running a building efficiently or having good air quality

- biofiltration can render that choice unnecessary

- this is what his company, Air Quality Solutions seeks to do

- their biofilters cultivate both bacteria and fungi

- making them easy for anybody to use

- giving naturally-occurring microbes a great environment to do what they do best


Microbes in Space

- transporting Earth microbes to space

- discussion of biofiltration in space


Nature Offers Solutions

- further discussion of integrated air filtration systems and potential issues

- spores, mould, humidity, energy levels, diverting water

- Dr. Alan began work with NEDLAW mid 200s, a building company, to implement air quality solutions

- we are living among a plethora of other organisms, and we just need to learn how to get along

- for many issues, the solution is there in nature for us to find

- discussion of recent research on species of fungi, spores, other organisms in air

- air is not a sterile environment, so introducing new microbes is not a problem, it’s just a matter of keeping all populations under control


Solutions For Moving Forward

- having plants in your home does very little for air quality, although it may help you mentally!

- healthy, uncontaminated soil is much more important

- figuring out the right box to put nature’s solutions in to solve issues

- improving efficiency of systems, not using unnecessary energy

- people have a lot of fear about microbes

- teaching people that we can harness many microbes to our benefit, and conversely there are very few that can harm us