P2P Microalgae Technology
GPRC researcher and inventor Dr. Weixing Tan and his team have spent over a decade researching the most efficient way to mass-produce microalgae, single-celled microorganisms that naturally grow in fresh and marine water. Their research and development led them to build what is currently the world’s most efficient photobioreactor (PBR), a microalgae mass cultivation device that will be familiar to you if you’ve ever spied its famous glittering green tubes through the solarium window on our Grande Prairie campus. The PBR uses solar energy and a pH-balanced nutrient recipe to maximize the efficiency of microalgae growth.
There are many reasons why scientists are becoming more interested in cultivating microalgae on a large scale. Microalgae is up to 100 times more efficient at capturing greenhouse gases than traditional crops, making it an appealing solution for carbon emission reduction. It does not take up large spaces of farmable land to grow, and produces valuable by-products that can be used to produce feedstock for fish, animals and even people, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and biofuel for vehicles. It can also remove pollutants like acid rain compounds and particulates from air as well as phosphates and heavy metals from wastewater.
This GPRC technology is IP-protected by three patents and scientifically demonstrated with a working prototype and publication. Now, it is ready to enter the pre-commercialization phase. We are currently seeking industry partners to bring this technology to the market. To learn more or get involved, contact the R&I Office:
Scientists have become increasingly interested in large-scale cultivation of microalgae in recent years. This type of single-celled microorganism is highly efficient at sequestering carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other greenhouse gases, making it a viable solution for carbon emission reduction. In addition, microalgae have the ability to absorb heavy metals, phosphates, and other pollutants found in air and wastewater. Microalgae also has commercial value, as it produces valuable by-products like proteins, omega-3, essential fatty acids, and carotenoids.
Despite the benefits of microalgae, there are numerous challenges associated with cultivating it. These challenges, for example, include inefficient use of sunlight and nutrients, expensive harvesting, and requirement of large amounts of water and land, thereby leading to high operation and construction cost. We have overcome these issues with P2P Microalgae Technology through a number of key world-class breakthroughs, leading to a low-cost, patent-protected and solar-based microalgae photobioreactor (PBR) cultivation system that is the most efficient in the world.
P2P Microalgae Technology improves upon all of the following processes:
- Increased energy efficiency and algal productivity using Active Spatial Sunlight Attenuation (patented)
- Simple and economic harvesting (patent pending)
- Increased productivity and reduced cost of microalgae production through nutrient optimization and pH-balance
- Water and nutrient recycling to reduce water and chemical demand
- Reduced construction and operation cost by a simple, reliable, long-lasting, automated, and economical system design
P2P Microalgae Technology is low-cost, portable, scalable, and suitable for any climate. The PBR system can produce 300 tonnes of Chorella vulgaris per hectare per year at 80 per cent capacity (approximately 100 grams per square metre per day). This system will soon be 100 per cent computer automated, further reducing the cost of microalgae production.
Uses of P2P Microalgae Technology
Microalgae cultivation is a natural, highly efficient way of reducing greenhouse gases and other air pollutants without consuming arable land while producing marketable bio-products as return on investment.
Industrial GHG and Emissions Control
This solar energy based system provides a sustainable and economical means for controlling industrial GHG and other emissions. It is a Negative Emission Technology (NET), a vital feature currently needed but not readily available for climate change mitigation. By using a much smaller fraction of non-arable lands for world feed supply, this technology can maintain or release large area of lands for food security and biodiversity conservation.
Microalgae is a viable source of biomass, which can be used to produce valuable, marketable products such as cosmetics, biofuel for vehicles, feedstock for fish and animal, dietary supplements, and even food for people.
Agriculture and Aquaculture
Microalgae is a highly nutritious feed for farm animals and fish and even for human, thereby leading to a better nutrition. This closed system will significantly use of water, soil erosion, and nutrient leaching.
Air and Wastewater Cleaning
The system can clean domestic and urban air and generate more oxygen. Microalgae can also be used to treat wastewater due to its capacity to absorb water pollutants like phosphates and heavy metals.
- Natural removal of air and water pollutants
- Source of biomaterials and fibre for biotech industry
- Source of animal/fish feeds as well as nutritional foods/supplements for humans
- Job creation and economic diversification
Research and Development
As we move toward commercialization, we are currently devoting research and development toward:
- Biomass harvesting/recovery: development of a low-cost, efficient harvester.
- Water and nutrient recycling: Long-term recycling of algae culture medium (i.e. water and nutrients), already achieving over 50 days.
- PBR cleaning and sanitization: More efficient ways to clear the biofilms and mineral deposits that collect in the system to achieve maximum productivity over time and prevent ‘culture crash’ that can occur in any PBR system
- Full system automation: Full process automation and monitoring using a PC-based industrial control system.
- Product development: Use of microalgae as fish feedstock, protein supplement and omega-3.
- Pre-commercial pilot: Seeking funding and partners for a 30,000 litre pre-commercial pilot.
Initial Project Funders:
||Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes