Advanced Algal Biomass Production and Biofuels Processing Pilot Plant: A TSB Proposal to the Technology Inspired Collaborative R&D Call

Updating the completed TSB grant

Steel plant CO2 sequestration using high efficiency micro-algal bioreactor




TataSteel R&D T, Swinden Technology Centre

Contributers: Bruce Adderley, Neil Schofield, Trevor Fray, Mohammad Zandi, Louis Brimacombe, Steve Woolass


Suprafilt Ltd.: Graeme Fielden,


University of Sheffield / Perlemax

Will Zimmerman,  Chair of Biochemical Dynamical Systems, University of Sheffield   

Jim Gilmour, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Raman Vaidyanathan, Lecturer in Chemical and Biological Engineering / ChELSI Institute

Hemaka Bandulasena, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


National Physical Laboratory: Gianluca Memoli


Advanced Algal Technologies:Jon Dale; Julian Gross


Carbon Sequestration Ltd.: David Hogg


Sonic Systems:Mike Draper


York University Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence: James Clark, Vitaliy Budarin, Mark Gronnow



Our archived materials from the previous and current projects are in the working directory, including a full description of our current TSB expression of interest.



News:Microbubbles win awards.



The developed world is facing a crisis, the rapid exhaustion of fossil fuels concomitant with the production of CO2. Briefly, this project aims to utilize stack gases, rich in CO2, as a feedstock for growing algal biomass, using an intensified bioreactor design. The intensified bioreactor exploits a recently invented microbubble generation technique which achieves high transfer rates across the gas-liquid interface and therefore accelerates CO2 dispersal, but also strips O2 that the algae respire during photosynthesis. The former should enhance growth rates approximately 10-fold, and the later should remove the toxic / growth inhibition, thus permitting much higher algal densities in production: a target of 20 g/l. Assessing the performance of the design with real industrial stack gases, including its ability to scrub the gas, will determine the feasibility of treating stack gases on a large scale plant with a realistic footprint and high throughput rates.


The Catalyst: An invention

Our view is that new technology and engineering development is the solution to the crisis. We have a new technology: microbubble generation and a patent on the process for the crucial element. Tesar and Zimmerman (2006UK, WO2008053174 filed 29-10-2007) is a patent on how to produce microbubbles more cheaply than ever before: it uses the same energy as steady gas flow to get bubbles tenfold smaller. Crucially, the mechanism scales down at least to the microscale. We have produced 60micron-sized microbubbles from 60 micron sized apertures. Why is this so important? In a large number of processes, transferring gas to liquids to dissolve them is the largest energy cost. In laboratory trials (see open archive), these rates are 7-8 fold larger. Would you not be interested in the possibility of hacking your electricity bill to ~15% of its current size?

Fields of application: Microalgal carbon sequestration

This question has been addressed before, with the conclusion that it is unwieldy: requiring large footprint. The process is dominated by gas-liquid dissolution costs. We are involved in a long time scale development project (since 2006) with a water company on wastewater aeration, which is a huge cost for water company, and this is reported in two recent manuscripts (see open archive). We believe that the mass transfer issues for biomass growth are similarly limiting in microalgal production, and the consortium have begun collaborating on demonstrating the proof of the concept with regard to Steel Industry processes and developing the technology to assess scale and economic feasibility through pilot level performance trials.




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18 November 2010

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