Algae Based Biofuel
Algae has long been recognized as a highly attractive biomass feedstock for biofuel production considering its many advantages including exponential growth rates leading to very high yields per acre and the ability to exploit non-arable land and waste or saline water supplies while not influencing food prices. Several challenges remain to economic algae-based fuel production, principal among them is the problem of efficient harvesting and dewatering.
Under an ongoing Phase 2 DOE SBIR, Calspan Advanced Solutions has developed an innovative algae concentration and dewatering system (ACDS) aimed at reducing the costs of harvesting and dewatering microalgae to levels that enable economically competitive production of biofuels. The ACDS produces high solids content algal slurry from dilute culture media in one low cost, high-throughput process step. Calspan Advanced Solutions leveraged its fluid system design expertise, gained through long experience in advanced aerospace systems R&D with in-house and academic partner algae knowledge to develop a novel flocculation and flotation approach tailored specifically to algae dewatering. The resulting ACDS currently in test has a small footprint, is highly scalable, and has low capital and operating costs due to low system pressure and minimal additive requirements. Economic modeling of the ACDS for a large scale algae‐to‐fuel operation indicates that algae can be dewatered and dried to 25% solids for as low as $0.09/gal of algal oil. Calspan Advanced Solutions is currently discussing commercialization of this technology with several potential transition partners and is actively seeking additional partners and customers for field trials of the system.
The photos below depict the initial dilute culture feedstock, an intermediate process state, and the final dewatered algae harvested by the Calspan Advanced Solutions ACDS.