Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let There Be Light In the Dark Algal Bloom

Algae can grow very quickly in a high nutrient environment, and shut out most light penetration to any depth. This restricts the rapid growth areas to near the surface. Some algal biofuels researchers are experimenting with ways to penetrate the murk, bringing light to deeper layers so that a thicker bloom of algae may grow. Bionavitas is the latest algal biofuels company to take this approach. 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. _BusWire

In other news, Genomatica has developed a process of producing methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) from biomaterials. This new process may allow several previously closed bio-ethanol plants to re-start, producing the more highly lucrative MEK using the same industrial equipment previously used to produce maize ethanol.



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