Ohio algae membrane company wins grant, plans demonstrations
The Ohio Third Frontier Commission has awarded Eco2Capture of Ohio Inc. a $100,000 grant to support the demonstration of its membrane technology to aid in algae growth through its Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. According to the commission, the project will develop and demonstrate a polymer membrane system that can significantly increase algal growth for use in carbon dioxide capture and biofuel markets.
Eco2Capture President David Bayless explains that his company is a startup that is based on technology developed at Ohio University, where he is a professor of mechanical engineering. The technology essentially aims to help algae producers lower the cost of production. “Our main product line is a system of membranes that we sell in a unit called a bank,” he said, noting the technology captures carbon dioxide from a gas stream or the air and transfers it into the aqueous phase. Bayless also said that the cost of adding carbon dioxide to the algae solution with this process is nearly free. “We estimate it will reduce their overall costs significantly,” he said.
Some methods used to inject carbon dioxide into algae cultures are too sudden, and change the pH of the solution so quickly that the culture crashes. However, Eco2Capture’s technology is able to add carbon dioxide to the solution gradually, thereby avoiding culture shock and culture crashes, Bayless said.
The grant money will support the build-out of several demonstration projects with commercial partners. “Our biggest immediate concern is to validate this technology on as many platforms as possible to show the industry that it can work in almost any situation,” Bayless said. “We’re looking at about four different pilot demonstrations with this money. Some of them will be a little more extensive than others, but we plan to show industry that our technology is capable of working in [numerous] scenarios.” For example, the technology will be shown to be compatible with different geographical areas, saltwater and freshwater cultures, different algae strains and sunlight levels, and more.
The membrane technology has already been demonstrated using photobioreactor systems. This round of demonstration projects will focus on raceway and open ponds. Bayless said the trials start this summer and span six to eight months. He also noted that his company hopes to present at least some preliminary results of the demonstrations at the 2012 Algae Biomass Summit in Denver, which takes place in late September. “We hope these demonstrations trigger some beta sales,” Bayless said. Large-scale commercial production of the system, however, is likely at least a year out.