We develop photobioreactor systems and genetically engineer algae strains. With this technology we provide core components to research groups, institutions and businesses for algaculture system development. We also have designed two iterations of our core resource production system, called Verde, which burns biomass to create power, and Hydral, which cleanses water and produces hydrogen.
Our company has engineered a scalable system that uses sunlight and naturally-present organic material to generate biomass, which can then be used to produce clean electricity, purify waste water, and yield other positive byproducts. This system does not produce any carbon emissions, and offers owners a short-term return on investment regardless of its configuration or size.
Algae, like any plant, naturally produces energy through the process of photosynthesis. Algae, through cellular light collectors (pigments) and a dedicated apparatus called a photosystem, is able to extract electrons stored in water by using the energy from light. These electrons are transported into a final product, hydrogen, which is used to reduce carbon dioxide, leading to the production of energetic rich carbon molecules (lipids, sugars, proteins). Since the end of the 1930’s, scientists such as Dr. Hans Gaffron have attempted to efficiently harvest these electrons. And now, in 2013, Grow’s team of scientists have perfected a method of growing algae that yields an extremely high amount of hydrogen, primed to be turned into clean & sustainable energy.
The first stage of our system process is to grow microalgae in a fully controlled, closed, and automated environment - our photobioreactors, or simply "bioreactors". Our tubular bioreactor were designed with the goal to minimize the energy needed to maintain the system by reducing pump consumption needs, maximizing the biomass concentration, limiting the viscosity and head loss, and minimizing oxygen accumulation while allowing for temperature control.
The bioreactors are supplied with a special nutrient solution to stimulate algal growth, and a harvesting pump filters out fully grown cultures. Our photobioreactors automatically control pH and temperature by utilizing our bioreactors’ sensors and heat receptors to adjust the growth environment conditions as needed.
Our bioreactors were also designed to be extremely lightweight, less than 5kg per m² to maximize the Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI). In order to achieve this, our photobioreactors have taken the shape as cylindrical tubes with minimal singularities. We can thus accommodate the needs of customers by connecting more than 30 modules without losing efficiency.
We have identified strains of algae that can naturally maximize the conversion of light into electrons, by limiting the thermal heat dissipation in pigments. Algae, like most plants, can’t harness the totality of the light it is exposed to. To protect itself from photo-inhibition (the destruction of the photosynthetic apparatus), algae evolution has yielded photo-protective mechanisms, such as the Xanthophyll Cycle and Super Oxide Dismutase, to limit the damage caused by light exposed to its photosynthetic apparatus. Therefore, we are using strains of algae that are tolerant to high light conditions, and strains that maximize the light to biomass conversion yield.
Secondly, we have optimized our photobioreactor culture system by ensuring that the complete photon flux density is fully absorbed by the culture volume. Due to the dynamic nature of light in the course of a day, a fully optimized system is not achievable, due to roughly 12 hours of darkness, which limits the efficiency of the system caused by the respiration of algae (internal biomass consumption). To overcome this, we have optimized the growing procedure and control process to ensure the best light to biomass conversion efficiency, through perfecting our bioreactor geometric construction and focusing light through an innovative process called light dilution.
Our bioreactors have been designed and developed to efficiently utilize solar irradiance through spatial dilution of sunlight. Incident sunlight is spread over a large surface area, thus reducing the photon flux density of the light. The implementation of this technique has been difficult, until recently. With newly developed optical components, our productivity tests indicate a 2-3 fold increase in productivity per unit aperture (sunlight collection area) over a control reactor with direct-sunlight.
The maximal areal productivity of algae is defined accurately through a very long procedure - very fastidious, but very accurate. Our photobioreactor is able to perform in continuous culture, either chemostatic or turbidostatic. A chemostat culture is a continuous culture where a fresh medium is added continuously at the same dilution rate of the overall grow process. A turbidostat culture mode is a continuous culture where a fresh culture is added for keeping the biomass concentration at the same level. Our nutrient pump feeds fresh nutrient-medium into our bioreactors, while our harvesting pump removes grown algae, and processes it for fresh medium and harvesting.
Designed for existing homes & buildings, we have developed a much less intrusive system called Verde. While not nearly as powerful as Hydral, Verde is capable of making a building self-sustainable by utilizing a power creation method than involves burning algae biomass.
Our Hydral model represents a potential shift in renewable energy technology and architectural design. This system is integrated directly into a building’s structure, and it uses hydrogen fuel cells to produce electrical energy & thermal heat. Hydral functions best when it is integrated with a building’s plumbing system to filter waste water.
Verde’s combustion process yields a low-temperature heat byproduct which can be utilized by appliances such as water heaters and home heating systems, and this heat is also used to help maintain optimum growth conditions within Verde’s bioreactors. Hydral’s process yields a significant amount of thermal energy as a product of its fuel cell process, that can be used for building heating or additional electricity.
Verde's water supply can be connected to a building's plumbing system as an option, while it comes standard for Hydral. Hydral produces purified water through its hydrogen fuel cells, and the water created from the fuel cell is delivered to each residential unit, as well as the public drinking fountains. Waste water is filtered and treated by on site living machines. The resulting grey-water is used for irrigation and toilets.
While Verde completely burns and eliminates all algae biomass at the end of the energy-creation process, Hydral’s utilization of fuel cell technology yields spent-biomass that is not destroyed during the process. Microalgae is known to be extremely high in protein and life-building nutrients, such as Chlorella microalgae sold for human consumption at health food stores, and the spent algal biomass of Hydral is excellent compost for the private and community food producing gardens throughout a local property.
Verde's process of electricity generation through combustion is carbon neutral. However, Hydral's unique overall process of energy creation is what our engineers call a "carbon sink". As algae grows, it consumes carbon dioxide like any plant, and since hydrogen fuel cells produce little to zero pollution, the Hydral process is truly carbon-negative.
The main problem with photovolatic panels is that the electricity generated is very difficult to store. Batteries made from lead or lithium are extremely polluting to produce and recycle. Our algae bioreactors store electricity naturally in energetic compounds for free, at ambient pressure and temperature.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen electricity and vehicle fuel emits absolutely no harmful pollution, only steam. From humble beginnings in 1839, when Sir William Robert Grove created reverse-electrolysis, to modern scientists developing hydrogen powered cars, Grow's Hydral model offers a way of producing hydrogen naturally that doesn't use any significant water resources.
Many renewable energy technologies today are extremely polluting and wasteful to manufacture, such as photovolatic panels. Grow's photobioreactors utilize simplistic and environmentally-friendly elements, as well as next-generation manufacturing techniques, in order to maintain an extremely minimal impact on the environment during production.
Many scientists and industry leaders today believe that hydrogen is the future of energy, and with good reason: being the most abundant and simplest element in the universe, the very fuel of stars, most would agree that hydrogen is a reliable energy source. The problem with hydrogen energy technology has been well explored, but the question of how to produce hydrogen for consumption has held back development. Thanks to Hydral and our partner automaker Hydra, we present a solution where large amounts of hydrogen fuel will be available at home, at work, and on the go to power next-generation hydrogen vehicles.