By John DeFore
Biofuel research company Origin Oil has filed a patent on a device that promises to facilitate the industrialized production of algae, knocking down some of the barriers to petroleum-free fuel.
The new Helix BioReactor, which a company announcement this week describes as a “breakthrough technology,” is an effort to overcome the problem of light exposure in algae growth tanks. In ponds, sunlight can only reach about a half-inch beneath the surface, limiting the area in which algae can grow. OriginOil’s new scheme creates theoretically unlimited planes of algae growth by arranging artificial lights in a spiral pattern through a rotating shaft, directing just the right amount (and frequency) of light to selected areas, and maximizing growth.
“By giving algae only the light it needs, throughout the growth tank, all of the time,” inventor Nicholas Eckelberry said, “we’re growing algae quickly and cost-effectively.” The company boasts that its innovations are making algae “a true competitor to petroleum” and, unlike some other touted sources of biofuel, can fill this role “without disrupting the environment or food supplies.”
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