New Algae Growth Technology for Biofuels Production
24 February 2009
Bionavitas, Inc. unveiled its patent-pending Light Immersion Technology (LIT) that it says produces an order of magnitude more algae biomass than existing growth methods, thereby increasing yields and reducing the cost to make algae-based biofuels price competitive with petroleum products.
Nearly every large scale approach to algae growth has been challenged by a “self-shading” phenomenon: as algae grow, they become so dense they block the light needed for continued growth. This 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 changes this by enabling the algae growth layer in open ponds to be up to a meter deep. This represents a 10-12x increase in yield over previous methods that produced only 3-5 centimeters of growth.
The Light Immersion Technology uses 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, LIT enables algae cultures to grow more densely.
Light Immersion Technology is designed to be independent of the light source, distributing solar as well as artificial light. In external canal systems, the rods distribute light from the sun into the culture. 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.
In order to grow algae in the large-scale, cost-efficient manner needed for biofuels, we have specifically designed our technology to require as little energy as possible. Light Immersion Technology has all of the attributes needed to allow algae to compete with petroleum. It is designed as a passive, low input, net energy positive system which is inexpensive to mass produce.—Michael Weaver, co-founder and CEO of Bionavitas
Bionavitas is targeting the biofuels; nutraceuticals; and environmental remediation markets.
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