Clean, Green, POWER!

A review of the technologies from the frontiers of innovation that will change our world. For better or for worse depends on how we implement it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Recent Developments in Algae-based Biofuels

Why am I obsessed with algae you may ask? Well it's because it has the greatest potential to be turned into biofuels, be it biodiesel or ethanol.

At any rate, I've found two companies that are developing this technology as we speak. In fact, they've already came up with workable business proposals for turning algae into biofuels. the companies involved are GreenFuel Technologies and GreenShift Corporation which is now owned by Veridium Corporation.

Here are excerpts from the latests press releases and news articles on these amazing algae to biofuels technology:

It Comes From Space to Solve our Energy Problems

GreenFuel Technologies Corporation, a start-up company in Cambridge Massachusetts, wants to use little green algae to cleanse the smoke from polluting smokestacks, converting it back into bio-fuels such as diesel or ethanol.

Originally inspired by NASA studies into regenerative life-support, the technology incorporates specially shaped tubes of water and site-specific algae at the end of large-scale sources of Carbon Dioxide such as coal-burning plants, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40% and NOx by up to 86%, according to the company.

“This is a really big
idea.” said GreenFuel founder and MIT Aeronautics Professor Isaac Berzin during a recent interview with Scientific American.

While the idea of using algae to clean smoke is not new, GreenFuel has made two breakthroughs that it believes will make the concept viable. First, it developed techniques to tailor algal species to specific sites, increasing efficiency and reducing problems such as die-off that have plagued other attempts. “There are a lot of variables which go into selecting a given strain of algae, from basic environmental factors such as climate and light levels, to power-plant factors like the nature of output gases, to post-processing requirements.” explained Marty Goldenblatt, VP of Sales, in a recent interview with PhysOrg. “We use rapid adaptation devices which allows us to find what set of algae is best for different conditions.”

Now, this idea isn't really new. If I recall correctly, scientists have been toying around with this concept since the '60s. I'm glad that it's finally becoming a reality. But sadly, it may take a while and a whole lot of effort to convince the big oil lobbies to accept this idea.

No matter, with the price of fossil fuels increasing rapidly, a lot of people out there are searching for alternative sources of energy.

Earlier I mentioned two companies are currently involved in the development of biofuels from algae. Whereas GreenFuel Tech is focusing on marketing their technology to heavy industries and energy companies, GreenShift is focusing their efforts on the agricultural sector. Here is an excerpt from their press release dated February the 23rd:

Veridium Technology Converts Exhaust Carbon Dioxide from Fermentation Stage of Ethanol Facilities into New Ethanol and Biodiesel

MOUNT ARLINGTON, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 23, 2006--Veridium Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: VRDM - News) today announced its new patent-pending technology for the conversion of exhaust carbon dioxide from the fermentation stage of ethanol production facilities back into new ethanol and biodiesel.

Earlier this year, Veridium announced its patented bioreactor process for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuelled combustion processes. The new technology is simple, robust and scalable, and was designed to stimulate additional revenues for power plant operators while decreasing plant emissions. Veridium's bioreactor is based on a new strain iron-loving blue-green algae discovered thriving in a hot stream at Yellowstone National Park. The algae use the available carbon dioxide and water to grow new algae, giving off pure oxygen and water vapor in the process. Once the algae grow to maturity, they fall to the bottom of the bioreactor where the algae can be harvested for other uses several times per day. One such use is conversion into clean fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol is made from starch-based feedstocks and biodiesel is made from animal fats and vegetable oils. Corn, the primary feedstock for ethanol production today, contains about 66% starch and 3-4% oil.

Veridium's new BioStarch Recirculation System(TM) routes exhaust carbon dioxide from the fermentation stage of the ethanol production process through Veridium's bioreactor where it is consumed by algae that are comprised of about 94% starch and about 6% oil.

"The algae convert exhaust carbon dioxide and sunlight into biomass," said David Winsness, chief executive officer of Veridium's industrial design division. "This biomass is a very efficient feedstock for ethanol production and is itself a concentrated source of the primary ingredient of ethanol. It doubles in mass several times per day - a rate much faster than plants, and it does all of this on a footprint that is orders of magnitude less than the surface area required for crops. That said, this technology is by no means a replacement for crops. Traditional ethanol feedstocks are still required to generate the quantities of carbon dioxide needed to make our bioreactor effective."
More information on the Veridium's biofuel initiatives can be found here:
Veridium Technology Sequesters Exhaust Carbon Dioxide
Veridium and Mean Green BioFuels Turn Livestock and Poultry Waste into Biodiesel


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