Continuous Oil and Biomass Recovery

1,000 kilograms of wet algae slurry will contain only about 2 kilograms of dry algal biomass, of which only 0.8 kilograms is actually oil. That means 99.8 percent of the material handled before extracting the oil is waste.

Our algae oil extraction solution improves efficiency by reducing energy requirements, recycling waste materials, and producing re-usable byproducts. Starting with wet algae slurry, here’s how the OpenAlgae system works. At the core is a tightly-integrated process that links harvesting, concentration, electromechanical lysing, and the separation of oil, water, and byproducts.

OpenAlgae’s Algae Concentration Platform

  • Multiple concentration methods
  • pH adjustment
  • Proprietary resin stage

Photosynthetic algae growth density is limited by light penetration; the more dense the culture, the fewer cells receive sufficient photons to support active cell division. This “self shading” phenomenon limits culture densities to perhaps 1-2g (dry weight) per liter. In addition, the wet algae cell’s density is very similar to water. The combination of algae’s low cell number and subtly different density to the water it grows in makes collecting algae problematic. Algae can be concentrated from water by a factor of approximately 100 using OpenAlgae’s methods. The water from which the concentrated algae is removed can be recycled to support additional algae growth.

OpenAlgae EM Lysing

  • Species-customized signature of short, powerful EM pulses to open algae
  • Wet process does not require drying, crushing, or grinding
  • Works with algae grown in fresh, brackish or salt water
  • Does not require metal catalyst

OpenAlgae’s Electronic Lysis Platform

  • Patented technology opens cells and exposes lipid droplets via electromechanical forces
  • Solvent-less system maintains the integrity of the algal biomass
  • Works on freshwater, brackish, and marine algae
  • Extremely cost-efficient

Algae cells have a strong and biochemically complex cell wall designed to protect the cells from hydrodynamic stress. This tough cell wall must be disrupted to liberate the oil that accumulates inside the cell.

OpenAlgae’s solution to lyse cells is elegant. The solution can process a continuous stream of concentrated algae cells, subjecting cells to low-power, high-voltage electromagnetic pulses. The pulses rupture the cell walls and cause cells to burst. The electromagnetic pulsing kills and ruptures cells without adding any additional chemicals or agents to the biomass, maximizing opportunities to repurpose the biomass and recycle the water. The precise pulse amplitude is tailored to i) optimize the disruption of cells of different size and density, and ii) to the salinity of the water.

Algae cells before and after lysis

Algae cells as seen under an electron microscope, before lysing cells are small and tight, while the bulk of the concentrated slurry is still water. After lysing, cell walls are destroyed and oil is released.

OpenAlgae’s Oil Recovery Platform

  • Patented membrane technology extracts oils without exposing the algae to solvents

Following lysis, the oil is liberated from cells, but it is comingled with broken cells and remaining cultivation water. Harvesting the quantities of algal oil liberated from the continuous cell lysis requires a solution that can collect oil continuously and does not expose the biomass to solvents.

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