Working under the radar of the media, Belgian biofuels company Proviron has quietly developed a new approach to algae cultivation. At the first general assembly and conference of the newly founded European Alga Biomass Association, Proviron announced a "controlled, simple and cheap way to grow algae." What is the breakthrough and will it change the future of biofuels?
Proviron Describes the Breakthrough:"The photo bioreactor is one big, translucent, plastic bag filled with water. The bag contains multiple vertical panes. The algae grow in these panes while CO2 rich air is bubbled through. The plastic foil is specially designed. This material provides a perfect balance between optical properties, expected lifetime, strength and cost. The complete bag, including all the panes and connections, is made in one production step."
A New Algae Marketing Approach?
The future of algae as envisioned by Proviron in the chart above indicates nothing technologically groundbreaking. But the business model might be the new angle. Although the website is not clear on the issue, it appears as though the plastic bag system used to grow the algae might be sacrificed in the harvesting process. This may improve harvesting efficiency; it will certainly guarantee a continuous market for the processing equipment.
It is interesting to consider that plastics are themselves a source of considerable reserved energy, so a system that captures the algae biomass together with plastic residuals could provide a cost-effective production system for a fuel blend. The lifecycle question of oil to plastic to mixed-fuel process would need investigation.
So far, the system has been tested only in a small pilot operation, 1 m2. But the company plans to move fast, installing prototype production capabilities for systems of 10 to 20m2 in mid-2009 with test results available by the end of the year. Another one to watch; keep your eyes on Proviron.
Thanks to tipster Dirk D.
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