Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Algae Fuels Research Picks Up Momentum

Three new research projects focusing on commercializing algae as a feedstock for biodiesel production were recently announced. _BiodieselMag
The link above will take you to the Biodiesel Magazine article that describes the efforts of the Midwest Research Institute, the Center for Integrated Algal Research, and the US DOE Ames Laboratory microalgae biofuels research. Outside the US, the UK's Algae Biofuels Challenge is being managed by the Carbon Trust, and independent company funded by the UK government. The Australian government is also financing research into algal biofuels.

Origin oil announced the automation of its patented Helix Bioreactor System for algal cultivation.
The design of the Helix BioReactor™ utilizes low-energy lights arranged in a helix pattern and a rotating vertical shaft design, which allows algae culture to replicate exponentially within a smaller installation footprint. Automation of this system is a key step towards continuous algae production, allowing greater control of the growth environment and efficient, low-cost industrial algae production.

...The automation will provide real-time control over all stages of monitoring, nutrient injection and CO2 delivery at the micron or Quantum Fracturing™ level. Nutrient and CO2 delivery are timed precisely to a proprietary algorithm to provide an optimum micron-mixed fluid in the bioreactor. Through programming of certain key metrics, such as pH, oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and temperature, the system is capable of not only monitoring but also controlling flow and timing of events in the algae growth cycle, which is crucial to controlling batch health in continuous algae production. _EarthTimes
Sapphire Energy of San Diego, is an agal biofuels company that has raised $100 million, and has an agreement with Continental Airlines to supply large quantities of its biofuel for flight testing. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of the investors backing Sapphire.

Other research is oriented toward tweaking the genome of microalgae, in the effort to cause the single-celled organisms to produce more hydrocarbons and less sugar.

It is wise to develop efficient productive methods for algal biofuels now, so that when the price of oil inevitably rises, companies will be ready to ramp up production to compete with more expensive petro-fuels.



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