Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: BSG-SME | Phase: SME-2011-1 | Award Amount: 1.48M | Year: 2011
The strategic overall objective of the proposed project is to develop an optical light distribution system that will significantly increase the productivity of existing open pond algae cultivation plant designs while maintaining low capital and operating costs and consequently reducing the overall costs per unit mass of algae oil produced. Light intensity is a key parameter affecting algae growth. Depending on the algae species and cultivation environment maximum production rates are achieved with the light intensities between 30 W/m2 and 100 W/m2 - which is around 1/10 of the light intensity of direct sunlight. Furthermore algae are very efficient in absorbing the light that hits them and with fairly dense algae concentrations all light is absorbed in the thin top layer of the algae pond in the order of only few centimetres. These factors make open pond algae cultivation systems inefficient in their conversion of sunlight into algae oil mass. Photo bioreactors are closed systems with controlled light distribution and algae environment. Existing prototypes of photo bioreactors show significant increases in productivity, but are very complex and expensive to build. High capital and operating costs increase overall costs per unit mass of algae oil produced in photo bioreactors over open ponds, even with these significant increases in productivity. In order to achieve the objectives we are presenting innovative concept of hybrid open pond photo bioreactor technology that will exploit advantages of both algae cultivation technologies, low capital and operation costs of open ponds with the light distribution system of photo bioreactors for higher productivity, in a new hybrid algae cultivation technology. Two technical approaches will be explored in the project: open pond with light distribution system and open pond / photo bioreactor hybrid system with light distribution and low cost closed algae environment system.