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.
Good idea....looks like some kind of fiberoptic technology...there are still more creative ways to make this work though - they could integrate fiberoptic grids throughout the tanks, collect concentrated sunlight from some centralized area and disperse it throughout the tanks with fiberoptic cable strands.
Posted by: ejj | 24 February 2009 at 01:02 PM
Rube Goldberg would be pleased.
Posted by: dursun | 24 February 2009 at 02:08 PM
The fiber optics will eventually get slimed and need maintenance. I wonder if that's cost-effective.
I thought for low-cost algae the plan is to use very long plastic-bag tubes that naturally flatten out to maximize the absorption of sunlight. They should be cheap, hold in the CO2, hold out the competing algae strains. Dunno how durable. Dunno how easy it is to get the algae out once it has grown.
Posted by: HealthyBreeze | 24 February 2009 at 03:36 PM
Algae has the potential to provide us with ALL our transportation fuels needs.
We need to go full speed ahead on it.
Posted by: Lucas | 24 February 2009 at 07:26 PM
Algae is the most prominant soure of bio diesel. It is equally important to focus algal growth in various ways.
Ravi Soparkar, Pune India
Posted by: Ravi Soparkar | 26 February 2009 at 12:51 AM
They can address the slime problem with an anti-algal coating on the light pipes. Maintenance will still be a problem. The Japanese have been using this type technology to bring daylight into tall vertical buildings for a while.
Good to see another entry in algal fuel. It is a reasonable source of the liquid fuels we need going forward.
Posted by: sulleny | 26 February 2009 at 08:57 AM