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Advances in the algae technology of Swiss start-up AlgMax
Algae rapidly build up biomass and are well suited for the sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2), as this is absorbed by the algae as it grows. Between 1.5 and 2 tonnes of CO2 can be absorbed in 1 tonne of algae mass. The oil contained in the algae can be used for the production of biodiesel, thus reducing the necessity to use rape seed and to import palm oil. After extracting the algae oil, the carbohydrates can be used for the production of bioethanol or biobutanol and the remaining protein-rich algae biomass can be used as an excellent food and animal feed. Algae biomass or the remaining algae biomass from the above applications can be used as a raw material in biogas plants. Thus, algae biomass can play an important role in solving the carbon dioxide problem and the conflict between the production of food and that of biofuels.
The challenge when cultivating algae is that as they need light to grow, they require either vast acres of land (open ponds) or expensive lighting (photo-bioreactors). To use algae efficiently and realise a higher acre yield, it is necessary to develop algae which require much less light to grow. To achieve this producers have turned to genetically modified algae where expensive safety provisions have to be observed. The advantage of AlgMax's technology is that without using gene technology an algae strain of the type Chlorella was cultivated which, through a short light induction and the addition of a suitable culture medium, can grow with very little light. Compared to the conventional open pond or photo-bioreactor technologies, this innovative technology can realise a considerably higher acre yield and requires for the production of the algae biomass an area of up to 600 times lower than the agricultural area for conventional technologies. The algae can be grown in low sun and/or densely populated areas in cultivation tanks without the need for expensive lighting technology.
A patent for the technology has been filed and the focus now lies on the building up of a pilot plant. Together with a biogas plant operator, algae will be cultivated and used in the biogas plant. For the global commercialisation of the technology further investors are sought.
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