Using its proprietary hydrogen-producing algae strain, Solarvest proposes to develop an integrated process with three main components.
First, will be the capture of carbon dioxide in photobioreactors, using Solarvest proprietary microalgae to convert industrially produced CO2, waste nutrient streams and solar energy into algal biomass by photosynthesis.
Second, to maximize both the economic value and energetic efficiency of the process, the same algae culture will be used to convert solar energy into hydrogen (“H2”), which will be harvested in cycles.
Third, to maximize the capital costs of photobioreactors required to capture the H2, the Company will use these strains to produce commercial quantities of valuable biomolecules for the nutraceutical and animal health industries.
Using this integrated process, carbon dioxide (“CO2”) and nutrient waste streams will be converted into useful biomass and hydrogen (a clean energy) using photosynthetic microalgae. This process can replace the current chemical and physical industrial methods that are currently used for CO2 capture and storage. These methods are costly and not always practical. An added value for using algae is that gaseous CO2 is recycled into organic state that can be utilized as soil fertilizers or other commercial products.
Solarvest’s Process Hinges on its H2-producing Algal Strain
Chloroplasts are the site of energy and oxygen production in all plants. However, the process of hydrogen metabolism by green algae is unique as the production of hydrogen takes place at the same site as the oxygen produced by photosynthesis. In 2003 the US Department of Energy published a Two-Stage Hydrogen Production System. This process utilizes a two-stage two-phase system that encourages the algae into producing hydrogen by starving it of key nutrients like sulfur and oxygen (anaerobic environment). The algae under these difficult conditions produce ydrogen by switching from photosynthesis to photolysis. Photolysis primarily produces hydrogen by breaking down water but also utilizes the protein and starch that is available in the culture system. Under these conditions the algae die rapidly so a second vessel is used to continuously add healthy cells to the production culture from an oxygen rich environment. US Department of energy estimates that this system will achieve an estimated cost per kilowatt of 0.70 cents.
Solarvest has developed genetically engineered H2-producing algal strains that cyclically produces hydrogen under laboratory conditions. An important advantage to the Company’s CO2 sequestration process is that hydrogen can be evolved in tandem with CO2 sequestration in the same photobioreactor. Solarvest’s hydrogen production platform utilizes an innovative gene circuit engineered for production of hydrogen and oxygen in inter-oscillating phases. This approach has solved some of the most challenging problems with economic hydrogen production from micro-algae. Until now, methods developed to produce hydrogen from algae have required two separate bioreactors, one for biomass accumulation and CO2 sequestration and another for hydrogen production. This limitation of two tanks is inherent to these strategies and cannot be overcome easily, if at all. On the other hand, hydrogen production and CO2 usage in our platform occurs in a single photo-bioreactor. For industrial purposes, reducing the number of the bioreactors required for hydrogen production by 50% is an enormous innovation and will save on space and capital equipment costs. Secondly, previous hydrogen production methods required the starvation of algal cultures of an important macronutrient, such as sulphur. As a result, these systems suffer from a relatively short period of hydrogen production occurring at sub-optimum cell densities in a severely restrictive nutrient environment. Solarvest’s Hydrogen Technology Platform (“HTP”) eliminates the necessity for utilizing such a method. Hydrogen production in the HTP occurs in an optimal nutrient environment. The Company has demonstrated hydrogen production from a single batch culture for weeks rather than days at comparable rates of production to the two-bioreactor system. Solarvest has an ongoing program to develop these strains to reach commercially viable production levels. This proposed methodology using solar energy to produce H2 will contribute to reducing the requirements for CO2 capture and storage in the future. Finally, these strains will also have the ability to produce high amounts of valuable biomolecules. Metabolically modified organisms are being developed which express valuable proteins and or lipids to commercially utilize the resulting algal biomass as a feedstock or to extract biomolecules. By exploiting the full range of commercial products derived from algal biomass, this process can become revenue positive with multiple opportunities for economical development