Los Angeles, United States — OriginOil Inc. this week unveiled a new direct-solar growth design that the company said uses growth layers to harness solar energy more effectively than existing pond systems, while reducing the real estate required.
“Algae ponds and channels are great for tapping the sun’s energy, but they require vast amounts of land,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil’s CEO. “We simply stacked the algae layers to multiply the benefits of ‘free’ solar energy. The result is an ideal mix of sustainable growth and industrial-grade concentration.”
Scott Fraser, the company’s vice president of operations, first outlined the breakthrough at the National Algae Association’s (NAA) Quarterly Conference in Houston in April. The company recently filed for patent protection of the new layered solar growth design, its ninth patent application, entitled “Multi-Plane Growth Apparatus and Method.” While currently focused on algae, the invention applies to the intensive growing of any crop.
OriginOil is now working in the lab with the new design and plans to build it into a standard 40-foot container for field testing. The company’s MultiReactor takes advantage of the fact that much more sun falls on the ground than vegetation can normally absorb. The solution is to capture it all in a stack of growth layers.
The new design uses an array of lenses to direct solar radiation from the top through a system of algae channels. Algae culture is pumped continuously to the top of the array and then trickles down through the layers, ensuring equal exposure. Tapping units at the end of the stack capture valuable gases.
The growth units are oriented east-west to capture the sun’s rays throughout the day. Adjustments are made for seasonal changes in the sun’s angle of incidence. The resulting system may be 10 to 20 times more efficient than single-layer systems. Algae prefer certain wavelengths, typically in the red and blue frequencies.
“We have been monitoring the progress and results of both open pond advocates and closed-loop system evangelists. OriginOil’s invention may finally provide a way to scale up commercial algae production,” said Barry Cohen, the NAA’s executive director.