Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ohio University algae tech to move into market


A technology developed at Ohio University to grow algae in efficient bioreactors has been licensed by Atlanta-based startup Green Bios Technology, the university said this morning. The developer of the algae bioreactor, Ohio University Professor of Mechanical Engineering David Bayless, told us that the reactor and light transmission design can increase algae growth by 20 to 50 percent compared to more traditional bioreactors. Bayless, who has been working on the technology for a good 11 years, told us this morning that it’s been a long road and he felt like a proud parent now that the tech was going to reach the market.

Bioreactors are closed environments that house the elements that stimulate algae to grow, including water, CO2 and sun light. Some companies grow their algae in open ponds, which is cheaper, but bioreactors enable algae-growers to closely control the process. In his lab Bayless has been able to deliver increases in productivity by tweaking the light management, fluid transport and reactor architecture.

The reactor just delivers algae, and Green Bios Technology will now have to find the best applications to commercialize the innovation. Green Bios CEO Joe Bajjani said in the release that the company plans to design a larger commercial-scale version of Bayless’ bioreactor within the next year that would be an “off-the-shelf” technology. Applications could include municipal waste treatment, water reclamation and biofuels.

Investing in algae production for biofuels has been a major trend, and its advocates say it can be more sustainable and more efficient than the first generation of biofuels being created now, which are based on corn and soybeans. Algae fuel is also getting a ton of investment — in the third quarter the sector brought in a record $95 million. About half of that went to Sapphire Energy and half to Solazyme.

Photo credit: Rick Fatica, Ohio University.

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