Biosystems Engineers Do It in the Dark!

Ah ha, I think I found our new slogan for department t-shirts! One of our main research topics here at Clemson is production of lipid from algae. Dr. Terry Walker and pHd candidate Jen-Hui Chen (Dec 2011) have been creating a method for growing algae in a heterotrophic environment to produce higher lipid contents. Heterotrophic means that un-like an autotrophic system (perfroming photosynthesis and deriving energy from sunlight and CO2), our system grows in the dark. This dark growth algae then derives its energy from a liquid substrate. In our scenario, we feed crude biodiesel glycerol to the algae.

 In this photo, Shwetha Sivakaminathon, a current biosystems MS student, has scaled up the results of Walker and Chen’s production system into a 7 litre production system. Learn more by reading Walker and Chen’s recent publication here: heterotrophic algae[1]

With this method we are able to acheive lipid contents greater than 60%. Higher lipid content in algae significantly improves the economics of oil extraction from algae. Over the next year we will continue to scale up this production system to CSTR’s, Raceways and Plug Flow Reactors as we search for an economical solution to algae oil production. With support from Clemson University Facilities, we will implement this system beyond the pilot scale to produce more lipids to make more biodiesel for the university fleet. We will also be researching the properties of the residual algae biomass for improved efficiencies in biomass gassification. biogasificationposter[1]


3 Responses to “Biosystems Engineers Do It in the Dark!”

  1. Amazing Post!…

    Thanks a lot for this amazing post. Really amazing!…

  2. I stumbled across this page looking for secrets about the elusive heterotrophic algae everyone is talking about.

    And Behold : I find a young women who knows everything about this multi trillion $ technology.

    Boy do I ever feel retarded and “left in the dark”

    Carry On Darling – Cary On


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