February 04, 2014

ASU partners to bring algae technology into next generation

Posted: February 04, 2014
Technicians work together on the ASU Polytechnic campus
Research technician in the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), David Cardello, with student worker Mariah Patton.
Photo by: John McGowen

A newly announced partnership between Arizona State University, Heliae and SCHOTT North America is a big step forward on the path to accelerate algae technology.

The collaboration will bring Heliae’s algae production technology to ASU’s algae testbed facility. Through the partnership, SCHOTT financed a Helix photobioreactor built by Heliae and installed at ASU’s Department of Energy-funded algae testbed facility on the Polytechnic campus. Over the next several years, algae researchers at ASU will leverage the Helix photobioreactor to propel the understanding of algae production technology, including an investigation into the effect of glass tubing innovations on the yields and economics of algae production. The reactor will also deliver the production of high-quality algae cultures, which will support broader ASU algae operations.

The DOE-sponsored testbed at ASU is part of the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) – a network of algae industry leaders, national labs and research facilities. Led by ASU, ATP3 enables both researchers and third party companies to succeed in their algal endeavors by providing a national network of testbed systems and other services, such as research and education.

Heliae, a technology-driven algae production company, designed, built and installed the Helix inoculum reactor late in 2013. Over the course of the multi-year research plan, ASU will manage Helix operations and research, while Heliae and SCHOTT will support the project in an advisory capacity.

As a key facet of the program, SCHOTT will continually supply novel glass tubing configurations to be placed within the Helix platform for validation and performance analysis. SCHOTT’s new CONTURAX oval glass tubing will likely replace current tubing later in 2014. Its oval shape offers a larger surface area for better light utilization and penetration, which should increase the productivity of the reactor, reducing operating costs. In addition to testing various types of glass configurations, ASU will analyze the growth of various algae strains, production regimes and light conditions, while offering a powerful tool to enhance ongoing operations at ATP3.

“Heliae is constantly innovating for new algae strains, new products and a pipeline of international production sites around the world,” said Dan Simon, Heliae’s president and CEO. “To develop world-class technology, it’s essential to partner and collaborate with the best innovators in the industry, and the interactions between Heliae’s and SCHOTT’s research and development teams over the years have helped both companies develop world-class technology that will truly enable this industry.”

“Schott and Heliae have been working together on technology development for years, as Heliae’s technical leadership in the algae industry is unmatched,” said Nikolaos Katsikis, director of business development at SCHOTT Tubing. “Pairing our history in glass innovation with their demonstrated algae expertise will continue to produce commercial technology for the growing algae industry. This partnership and public research is a great step in bringing efficiency and cost reduction to producers of high-quality algae around the world.”

“By linking academic and commercial interests, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation in algae research and development,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. “Pairing the skills of ASU algae researchers and technicians with technology from industrial partners like Heliae and SCHOTT brings ATP3 closer to its mission of propelling algae technology into a commercial realm.”

Sarah Mason, sarahmason@asu.edu
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