|31 January 2017|

USA

A leading scientist has developed a new technology to efficiently farm algae used in the production of biofuels and other valuable chemicals.

Until now it has been difficult and costly to grow microalgae but Bendy Estime, a biomedical and chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate, has pioneered a new technology for the energy efficient cultivation and harvesting of microalgae.

Estime’s research has been published as a peer-reviewed article in Scientific Reports. He and his research advisors, Distinguished Professor Radhakrishna Sureshkumar, chair of Syracuse University’s Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, and Professor Dacheng Ren, have secured a provisional patent for the technology.

“My goal was to improve the growth of microalgae,” says Estime, who first studied biofuels as an engineering student in his native Haiti.

“The study is an attempt to address three ‘bottlenecks’ in microalgae cultivation,” says Sureshkumar. “When you grow algae in suspension, they tend to stick to the walls of a container, making the container opaque. This makes it more difficult for required light to get through to the algae. The second issue is that there has to be consistent stirring of the container to ensure that light does reach all layers of the algae. A third issue is the difficulty of separating algae from the broth, which requires time and energy, and is therefore costly.”

Estime developed a new medium to culture and harvest microalgae, which he says would “harvest microalgae 10 times faster than traditional systems and in an energy- efficient fashion.”

“This study presents a novel method to harvest algae and other cells with low cost, which has potential applications in multiple fields,” says Ren, professor of biomedical and chemical engineering. “It makes it more realistic for researchers to pursue microalgae as a solution.”