Algae Ethanol Protocol

My posting on the use of thermophilic algae to directly produce ethanol brought this comment from Prof. Hans-Jurgen Franke about work recently done by Pengchen Fu in Hawai’i.

I have no doubt that we will be seeing many initiatives aimed at maximizing the use of various forms of algae to produce the forms of transportation fuel that we certainly need. I will try to keep up with them as much as possible. Without question, the comparative advantage of algae over any form of field crop appears obvious. Using them to convert agricultural waste and any other organic waste seems to be simply good husbandry.

What I find most encouraging is that I am seeing this happening so fast. We can expect, since we cannot see every project out there, that we will have dozens of pilot operations in play over the next two years. Thus a best practice protocol can be settled on within five years at most assuring a smooth replacement of hydrocarbons in the fuel chain.

In many ways, this will be a historic global transformation of the energy equation. Oil markets have provided the necessary price signal that the age of oil has ended and that we must look elsewhere for transportation fuel. This algae revolution will leave trillions of barrels of expensive oil in the ground were they truly belong.

The rollout of very cheap nanosolar as well as the advent of working Vanadium battery storage secures static power at the same time. Amazingly, this can all become main stream over the next five years. The manufacturing aspects are completely doable and in many cases straight of the shelf.

New comment on Thermophilic Algae converts Agri-waste to Ethanol.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 6:38 PM

Prof.Hans-Jürgen Franke has left a new comment on your post "Thermophilic Algae converts Agri-waste to Ethanol":



University of Hawai'i Professor Pengchen "Patrick" Fu developed an innovative technology, to produce high amounts of ethanol with modified cyanobacterias, as a new feedstock for ethanol, without entering in conflict with the food and feed-production .

Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria — one of the components of pond scum — that feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide, and produce ethanol as a waste product.

He has done it both in his laboratory under fluorescent light and with sunlight on the roof of his building. Sunlight works better, he said.

It has a lot of appeal and potential. Turning waste into something useful is a good thing. And the blue-green-algae needs only sun and wast- recycled from the sugar-cane-industry, to grow and to produce directly more and more ethanol. With this solution, the sugarcane-based ethanol-industry in Brazil and other tropical regions will get a second way, to produce more biocombustibles for the world market.

The technique may need adjusting to increase how much ethanol it yields, but it may be a new technology-challenge in the near future.

The process was patented by Fu and UH in January, but there's still plenty of work to do to bring it to a commercial level. The team of Fu founded just the start-up LA WAHIE BIOTECH INC. with headquarter in Hawaii and branch-office in Brazil.


Fu figures his team is two to three years from being able to build a full-scaleethanol plant, and they are looking for investors or industry-partners (joint venture).He is fine-tuning his research to find different strains of blue-green algae that will produce even more ethanol, and that are more tolerant of high levels of ethanol. The system permits, to "harvest" continuously ethanol – using a membrane-system- and to pump than the blue-green-algae-solution in the Photo-Bio-Reactor again.

Fu started out in chemical engineering, and then began the study of biology. He has studied in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, and came to UH in 2002 after a stint as scientist for a private company in California.

He is working also with NASA on the potential of cyanobacteria in future lunar and Mars colonization, and is also proceeding to take his ethanol technology into the marketplace. A business plan using his system, under the name La Wahie Biotech, won third place — and a $5,000 award — in the Business Plan Competition at UH's Shidler College of Business. Daniel Dean and Donavan Kealoha, both UH law and business students, are Fu's partners. So they are in the process of turning the business plan into an operating business.The production of ethanol for fuel is one of the nation's and the world's major initiatives, partly because its production takes as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it dumps into the atmosphere. That's different from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which take stored carbon out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, for a net increase in greenhouse gas.

Most current and planned ethanol production methods depend on farming, and in the case of corn and sugar, take food crops and divert them into energy.

Fu said crop-based ethanol production is slow and resource-costly. He decided to work with cyanobacteria, some of which convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into their own food and release oxygen as a waste product.

Other scientists also are researching using cyanobacteria to make ethanol, using different strains, but Fu's technique is unique, he said. He inserted genetic material into one type of freshwater cyanobacterium, causing it to produce ethanol as its waste product. It works, and is an amazingly efficient system.

The technology is fairly simple. It involves a photobioreactor, which is afancy term for a clear glass or plastic container full of something alive, in which light promotes a biological reaction. Carbon dioxide gas is bubbled through the green mixture of water and cyanobacteria. The liquid is then passed through a specialized membrane that removes the ethanol, allowing the water, nutrients and cyanobacteria to return to thephotobioreactor.Solar energy drives the conversion of the carbon dioxide into ethanol. The partner of Prof. Fu in Brazil in the branch-office of La Wahie Biotech Inc. in Aracaju - Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke - is developing a low-cost photo-bio-reactor-system. Prof. Franke want´s soon creat a pilot-project with Prof. Fu in Brazil.

The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol.La Wahie Biotech Inc. believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production. To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a major cause of global warming.

Honolulo – Hawaii/USA and Aracaju – Sergipe/Brasil - 15/09/2008

Prof. Pengcheng Fu – E-Mail:

Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – E-Mail:
Telefon: 00-55-79-3243-2209

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