Some of the biggest innovations in algae production can come from the smallest of improvements. Algae companies are hard at work experimenting with variations in equipment and processes, seeking better ways to grow their strains of algae into commercially viable fuels, feed, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics, among other products. These building blocks of progress have improved understanding of algae production and are shifting the way algae is grown. And small changes are making a big difference.
The glass tubing used to grow algae cultures from seed, for example, continues to prove critically important in commercially viable algae enterprises, and small adjustments to the tubing can have a big influence on yield.
How glass tubing aids in algae production
Algae production starts in photobioreactors (PBRs) and is often moved to outdoor tanks to continue growth on a larger scale. But recent advancements to seed PBRs have shown that production on a commercial scale can occur in these closed systems.
Tubular glass PBRs are protected from environmental factors that are detrimental to algae growth, keeping strains safe from bio-contamination. The glass tubing itself is resistant to ultraviolet light, chemicals, scratches, and corrosion. But the most important benefit of closed glass PBR systems is that they’re highly productive, yielding a higher biomass output per production space versus outdoor pools. SCHOTT and other algae companies have been experimenting with PBR tubing, using thinner walls or an oval shape, for example, to extend those yields.
At Heliae, an Arizona-based commercial algae producer, we’ve been testing oval CONTURAX glass tubing in the company’s Helix seed PBRs, and some early results are stunningly positive: This tubing can help increase the growth rate, and ultimately the production, of algae strains in seed reactors.