A research team at AlgaStar Inc, a Florida-based algae cultivation company, has reported that biological simulation has yielded a 300 percent increase in algae growth rate over normal conditions. Based on findings presented by AlgaStar CEO John Ericsson at the 2013 Algae Biomass Summit in Orlando, the research conducted at AlgaStar and recently initiated at Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun to map the conditions under which biostimulation enhances growth rate and metabolism for several biological cultures with microwave energy.
Even though algae is one the fastest-growing organisms on the planet, faster is better for the industry, which is “limited by sustainable biomass accumulation. Growth rates impact both capital and operational costs. A 20 percent increase in growth rate could give some growers a 30 percent increase in revenue,” according to AlgaStar.
The company's algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy — a millitesla generator and a millimeter microwave generator — which radiate spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass. AlgaStar says the research teams have demonstrated that electromagnetic energy waves can provide an increase in algae biomass and its corresponding lipid oil production by up to 300 percent.
The patented 4,500-gallon SolarMagnatronTM, biomass production system uses an automated biosystem controller (ABC), which optimizes biomass production. AlgaStar says the ABC can control light, temperature, pH, nutrients and delivery of carbon dioxide to achieve optimal productivity, as well as the biostimulation EMF frequency and amplitude to optimize the algae growth cycle.
The ABC transforms the SolarMagnatron system — which allows continuous growth during daylight hours by maximizing the use of natural sunlight — into an adaptable microcrop platform that can mimic ideal growing conditions for many algae species as well as other microorganisms. During non-daylight hours, special domed acrylic lenses and flat-panel glass reactors containing high-efficiency fluorescent and LED lights produce artificial sunlight at specific wavelengths and power levels that optimize algae photosynthesis. The gravity flow and air lift circulation systems already uses very little energy, but AlgaStar says it is working on a solar-powered DC power system that would enable siting off-grid.
The SolarMagnatron production platform minimizes water consumption and evaporation — the production of oils, protein and carbohydrates per kilogram require less than 10 percent of the water consumed by field crops, while Omega-3 fatty acids require less than 1 percent of the water consumed by field crops, the company says. The system also further reduces costs by allowing growers to use non-potable water such as brine, brackish, waste or seawater. An integrated UV and Ozone unit sanitizes both the inflowing water as well as recycled water after biomass harvest. And since it is an enclosed system, genetically modified organisms can be grown with minimal risk to the natural environment.
AlgaStar says biostimulation offers hope to an industry where demand for algae and its derivatives is on the rise — recently CPG giant Unilever announced that its premium Lux soap (called Caress in the US) will now be made with algal oils produced by partner Solazyme, and natural cleaning products company Ecover is using algal oil to develop the first palm oil-free laundry liquid.