As we speak, 7,4 billion fellow humans share this our planet with us. Most respectable surveys suggest that our planet will have to cope with a population of 10 billion and higher during the course of this century. Meanwhile, according to an OECD study, an estimated 170 million could reach the middle class annually. Naturally, the need for energy, food and consumption in general is rising substantially in the developing world. Meanwhile, the so called "developed world" has not done enough to slow down let alone reduce their hunger for energy. It is thus obvious, that we face an enormous challenge: Meet needs for continued population growth and ever rising standards of living all while not creating an ecologic overburden to our planet.
Relatively soon after the most tragic 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the German government decided to eventually abandon the generation of nuclear energy for good. Consequently, coal powerplants had to close the emerging energy gap. Taking into account, that the top ten of Europe wide CO2 producers are all coal driven power-plants, one at least has to question how those eager climate protecting goals should be met.
The most urgent question of leaving both nuclear and fossil energy behind us made me look back onto my own life. As a young man, I have partly financed my studies with building rotor wings for wind energy systems. Frankly, despite greatly enjoying this work, I was not convinced that wind energy would ever play a serious role in any states energy generation. However, time would prove me and many others wrong. Considering, that the state of Germany already obtains some 13 percent of its entire produced energy from wind energy; in hindsight, I should probably have stayed in that industry. While this decision lies behind me, it nevertheless demonstrates what really is possible. It is my firm belief, that we cannot continue depleting our planets resources, just to emit even more CO2 into our atmosphere.
As a father of two sons, this wish to leave a planet worth living to future generations has been with me ever since. Eventually, while thinking about usable solutions to the mentioned problems I learned about the astonishing potential of micro algae. Micro algae produce more biomass per surface than any other plant on the planet. High quality substances for the food, feed, chemistry and energy sectors are to be won out of this plant’s biomass. All this, while mainly using CO2 and sunlight –both being very abundant– for production. Moreover, in case of closed cycle systems the required amount of water is rather low. What a phenomenal possibility, to create biomass while taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, so far the success of micro algae has remained far behind its true potential. In my opinion excessive water evaporation of open pond photobioreactors (PBRs) seriously limits the applicability of those. Much more useful are closed PBR systems, in that they only use a fraction of the amount of water needed to run open pond PBRs. To date however, those closed PBR systems could not be realized and operated on truly competitive price levels. Algoliner provides an innovative solution to substantially reduce those costs.
Just a Dream?
During a 30 year career in the automotive industry, I have reached a comprehensive expertise in various mass production technologies. As a university graduate for plastics engineering and a state graduate for business/economy, my main motivation has always been to improve quality while reducing costs. A dream will always remain a dream, if costs for the realization cannot withstand market pressures. What separates a truly revolutionary idea from a mere dream is it's "real life" applicability. It is thus that I set myself ambitious targets as to the "real life" applicability of my idea.
Statement of Requitements
The following Statement of Requirements (SOR) lists indispensable targets we have set for our product. It should be/have:
Substantially cheaper than any conventional PBR ($ per volume).
An operational lifetime of at least 20 years even in harsh conditions.
Small ecological footprint (environmentally friendly and recyclable materials).
Low energy consumption for set up and operation (mostly solar).
Closed system PBR's exist in various varieties. Most commonly the pipes that are foreseen to hold the algae are assembled either vertically or horizontally. So far, manufacturers would produce those required pipes and cut those into pieces for transportation only to be reassembled at the site of the future PBR. I will not have to convince you that this practice lacks any logic. The amount of time and materials spent to reconnect those pipes are enormous, and the final pipe will hardly reach the stability it had in it's original condition.
I have designed a fully equipped mobile factory, that allows for pipe production at any required length and location. With the help of numerous remote controlled winches, our up to 100 meter (>300') long pipes may be lifted into position with the literal flick of a finger.
For reasons of processing, extrusion experts love materials such as PVC or PE. For me however, it has been a non-negotiable condition to use Plexiglas (PMMA) from the beginning on. While this material is indeed tricky to process, it provides for outstanding qualities in the final product. It's superior transparency, scratch- and sunlight resistance make it the ideal raw material for PBRs. Eventually, we have managed to produce pipes with a thinner wall thickness (and thus lighter), more transparent and more elastic than any other supplier on the market.
Our Profiles and point of difference
As you may have seen on this website, our pipe profiles are not purely round. Because we do not have to reconnect our profiles, we are not bound to strictly round profiles. This allowed us to modify the shape of our profiles so we can hang those. This significantly reduces the profiles required wall thickness, as well as the amount of holding racks. It hence saves more than half of the amount in raw materials, and thus dramatically reduces cost. Compared to ancient bridges, modern hanging bridges –as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge for instance– require less pillars and a thinner deck to cover tremendous distances. Moreover, the overall structure is able to withstand considerable deck movement without obtaining any damage. Just like bridges, in our opinion hanging profiles are the much more logic solution compared to common concepts.
We have made sure that all required elements such as holding devices, end pipes, feeding elements or sensors have been designed so they could be produced using the most cost efficient mass production technologies.
All the above mentioned concepts are subject to already granted patents. We are excited for future tasks, and look for worldwide partners to bring in their specific know how. All this with the overarching goal to realize the most cost efficient production method for the production of biomass with micro algae.
How much is a dream worth, if in fact it will never be realizable? Algoliner's unmet cost efficiency will let this dream become reality. A vision of biomass production that will help contributing to higher living standards for a growing world population. All while not producing, but in fact reducing CO2.
What a nice dream!
Let us realize it together
Founder and Partner of Algoliner