The algae experiment: How to build your own algae photo-bioreactor.


Step 13: Outcome

Picture of Outcome
Photo 05-01-2012 18 53 39.jpg
Being an ongoing project I do not have the algae biomass output of this experiment yet. 

I will keep you posted through my tumblr blog


where any publications results and other events that will be organised shall be posted.

Thank you for looking through this instructable and please contact me if you need any further info.

mcipriano2 years ago
Have you been able to make any algae biofuel?
White_Angel3 years ago
This is all very new to me and quite exciting! My only concern is that the power to extract the usable oil seems to run the gamut in power consumption making it a moot point. Unless it is possible that the biofuel is so efficient that it could produce enough power for the extraction process and then some I don't see how this is applicable as a long term solution. Does anyone know the relationship between the amount of energy needed for extraction and the amount of energy produced per unit of Algae based biofuel?
Malkaris3 years ago
Pretty slick, did you consider just using a continuous length of tubing for the top part? Instead of the sold-flexible connections just "laced" the whole thing with one continuous piece?
wblack33 years ago
Beautiful looking reactor. Great photography of it, too!

Elegant solution as to the placement of the tubes to get maximum solar exposure.

Yes, there is some interest in using microalgae to produce oil for biodiesel / green diesel and cosmetics/pharmaceuticals, with the algae cell debris pellet for use as cattle feed. The advantage being that it is some thousands of times more efficient per hectare land area at converting CO2 into biomass than current plant crops. Also, given it is inedible, it does not compete in the 'food-or-fuel' dilemma discussed of palm oil.

Check out MBD Energy for the biosequestration of CO2 from coal fired power station emissions.

Actually, some microalgae *do* fix nitrogen under some conditions, mainly low nitrogen, forming 'heterocysts' or lumps to keep out oxygen that otherwise stuffs up the N fixing enzymes. Anabaena is one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabaena.

Also, one can extract the oil then compost the cell debris and 'recycle' the inorganic nutrients like N, P, K, S, Fe, Mg, etc., but yes the use of fertiliser is a significant energetic input considering about 1% of the world's energy consumption is fixing N via the Haber process.

Er, also, one problem that many algae species suffer is that they don't like really bright light. Ironic, eh?

This might not be such a problem after a couple of weeks of operation as the insides of the tubes will be coated with biofilm and gunk anyway, so it will reduce the amount of light reaching the algae. Use of silicones like silcote can make the insides of the pipes less sticky.

Use of a small solar PV cell to power your pump is good, as also setting it all up as a solar thermosiphon to minimise power consumption from pumping water through a narrow pipe.

Good work! I might give it a go myself!

Soarak3 years ago
Excellent project, have you considered adding an active yeast culture on a carbohydrate feeding regime to provide CO2 to the algae?
hemondey3 years ago
Excellent work, and excellent photography skills too. What are you going to do with the biomass generated? How do you get the oil out of it, and is it a complex process to create biodiesel from that?
rosec3 years ago
I'm not of a scientist but I was awe-struck. I read every word and WOW your preciseness! I may try a smaller scale. Many thanks.
stldncr013 years ago
Beautiful design and execution. I have no experience with algae reactors or cultivation, mostly fighting its growth in fish tanks, swimming pools, and stock tanks. In my experience the algae adheres to the walls of the vessel containing it. Does the motion of the water, type of algae, or some other factor contribute to this not happening to the tubes? I ask because if it did adhere to the tube walls then less light would get in thus decreasing yields, not to mention the impossible task of cleaning those tubes out.

Awesome project!
dimhara3 years ago
great work charles
very good thinking about the tubes
Im sure its working now !!