March 26, 2009

Algae Fuel Cost and Production Breakthroughs

Algae Ventures claims to have a method of lowering the cost for harvesting, dewatering, and drying algae by Over 99.75%.

Patent documents have been filed and an operational prototype unit has been demonstrated to collaborators who have participated in research and commercialization proposals.

Prototype and laboratory testing has successfully been achieved with three species attempted including Chlorella vulgaris, Euglena gracilis, and Botryococcus braunii. The company plans to continue development on the process, equipment, and technology and is looking to establish relationships with potential customers, licensees, distributors, as well as funding or investing sources.

The best way to describe our breakthrough technology in algae harvesting, dewatering,
and drying is a model of nature’s liquid moving strategies in organisms. No biological system has anything even remotely close to a functioning centrifuge. For that matter we found it difficult to find flocculation or flotation occurring in a biological organism.

A centrifuge moves the entire mass of water and its contents in order to separate into fractions. This was also true of flocculation, flotation, and other methods to a certain degree because the focus was on moving the algae and not moving the water. A water molecule is 1/33,000 the size of a 10 micron algae. When differential pressure (even excessive gravitational pressure in the form of a water column) is moved to force algal mass and water through a screen, this energy compacts the algal mass into a form that blocks water and impacts algal mass into screen.

So using several of nature’s gifts to move the water molecules by changing the surface tension, adhesion, cohesion, taking advantage of the meniscus being formed, a capillary action from a compression pull (think artificial Transpirational) allowing absorption and next, use water’s surface area to mass to dramatically improve evaporation (think of a water based paint applied thin and how quick it dries).

Surface tension can be broken by hundreds of ways, however, a class of materials that
were patented several years ago has a combination of natural plus synthetic materials
called superabsorbent polymer (SAP) fabrics. It is these SAP fabric material types of we call our “cap belt” and they allow for simulating nature in multiple ways. These materials, when put into contact with the bottom of the screen (water meniscus), have the capability to move vast amounts of water without moving the algae because the molecular bonds from water to water are stronger then water to algae, as long as energy applied does not break water’s bonds to itself. The capillary effect and adhesion effect (once wetted, and rung) can be designed to be continuous, just like the screen can be designed to be continuous.

This continuous approach allows for a thin layer of algae to be continuously processed from in solution to dry flake in a distance of four feet at a scalable rate with scalable equipment. In our prototype equipment, the rate exceeds 500 liters per hour on less than 40 watts per hour of run time.


Bionavitas is another company making progress on algae fuel processes.

Bionavitas' Light Immersion Technology greatly enhances algae growth by evenly distributing light deep into the algae culture.

. Before Bionavitas made its Light Immersion Technology available to the public, nearly every large scale approach to algae growth has been challenged by a simple fact of nature: as algae grow, they become so dense they block the light needed for continued growth.

This “self-shading” phenomenon results in a layer that limits the amount of algae per acre that can be grown and harvested. The Light Immersion Technology developed by Bionavitas fundamentally changes this equation by enabling the algae growth layer in open ponds to be up to a meter deep. This represents a 10 to 12 time increase in yield over previous methods that produced only 3-5 centimeters of growth.

At the core of Light Immersion Technology is an innovative approach at bringing light to the algae culture in both open ponds and closed bioreactors through a system of light rods which extend deep into the algae culture. By distributing light below the surface “shade” layer and releasing the light in controlled locations, algae cultures can grow denser. In external canal systems, the rods distribute light from the sun into the culture. This abundant and free energy source is ideal for generating large amounts of algae for use as biofuels.

In closed bioreactors, the rods evenly distribute more readily absorbed red and blue spectrum light from high efficiency LEDs. While the LEDs increase the cost of production, algae grown in these systems are used for higher value markets such as nutraceuticals.

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