Algae-to-biofuel pioneer OriginOil today announced a breakthrough in the quest to cost-effectively extract a renewable biofuel from algae. The low-tech, single-step process relies on changes in pH, electromagnetism and gravity to "fractionate" water, biofuel and the algal biomass that produces it, a process demonstrated in a short, time-lapse video on the company's website.
Origin's algal biofuel has already been used on test flights by major airlines looking to reduce emissions by making use of renewable biofuels.
Origin plans to incorporate the process into its own production system--which is built around algal oil production in its Helix Bioreactor-- and move quickly to commercialize the patent-pending process for use by others in the nascent algae industry.
In addition to producing large quantities of algal oil efficiently, cost effectively extracting and separating the oil produced by carefully selected strains of algae and their watery medium has proven to be a stumbling block along the path towards commercializing algae-to-biofuel processes. Initial tests indicate that the new algal extraction process is not only more efficient than current methods, it doesn't require chemicals or significant capital expenditure for equipment, according to the company.
In the time-lapse video, a small batch of algae laden with oil and suspended in water is separated within an hour.
“Throughout the world, algae production is becoming a fact, but it still has to be harvested efficiently,” Riggs Eckelberry, OrignOil's CEO, stated in a media relase.
“Our breakthrough technology accomplishes key parts of the harvesting process in a single, cost-effective step. We are planning to make our new technology available to our fast-growing industry.”
“With this new process, we have greatly improved on our previous harvesting technology. We now have a single device and process that we will optimize and scale up in upcoming trials for commercialization,” added CTO Vikram Pattarkine.
Eckelberry and team plan to provide details of the process at the National Algae Association’s Forum on April 30, 2009.