Bodega Algae, LLC is a developer of a scalable continuous flow photobioreactor that grows large volumes of microalgae for use in the production of biofuel.
The core innovation of the company is a provisionally patented lighting technology adapted from the video-projection industry that distributes light throughout the tank of the closed bioreactor. Preliminary research indicates that the bioreactor will increase algae production by two orders of magnitude over current open-pond reactors, and four times over closed tank reactors, by increasing the quantity of light necessary to algal photosynthesis.
The Bodega photobioreactor is designed to be modular and stackable, allowing it to be co-located on the premises of industrial plants to grow algae at optimal rates with minimal use of real estate. The reactor uses nutrients drawn from a variety of waste streams to grow the algae. Sources for nutrients include wastewater from domestic sewage, municipal water treatment plants or carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) flue gases from industrial plants. The microalgae in the bioreactor converts these compounds to biomass, creating the feedstock for biofuel while improving the environment.
Microalgae has significant advantages when compared to conventional oil crop feedstocks. Currently ninety percent of the biodiesel feedstock in the U.S. is comprised of soybeans. Algae produces 300 times the amount of biofuel than soybeans on an equal amount of land due to rapid growth rates and high concentrations of lipids per cell density. Studies show that sixty percent of the cost of biodiesel production from vascular plants is due to the time and resources necessary to cultivate and harvest the crops. In contrast to soybeans and other oil crops, the modest agricultural and resource requirements of microalgae make it an attractive low-cost alternative feedstock. Estimates indicate that algae grown in large volumes could reduce the cost of manufacturing a gallon of biodiesel by half of current rates. Lower costs and greater energy yield will make biofuels economically competitive with petro-fuels.