COURTESY OF DAN BIHN
Algae-based biofuels are among those most likely to help counter climate change. Solix
Biofuels develops oil-rich algae with the goal of mass-producing climate-sensitive biodiesel.
said. “The new system biology tools will
really help delineate where the bottlenecks are
in the biochemistry of this organism.”
Each of the new companies approaches
the growth and harvesting of the algae in a
Henston’s company, Solix Biofuels, is pro-
gressing toward the fourth-generation technology of its photobioreactor, which is used
to grow the algae. “This technology works,
that’s been proven,” he said. “Bringing cost
down is the biggest hurdle.”
Solix has 40 employees, most of them
scientists and engineers. The company works
with large industry players, universities and
private groups, Henston said. He would not
disclose, however, who those partners are.
Chief technology officer at Solix is Bryan
Willson, professor of mechanical engineering
at Colorado State University. Willson divides
algae-fuel companies into three technology
categories: closed bioreactors like Solix, open
ponds and genetic modification specialists.
According to Willson, credible companies in
the bioreactor category include Solix and
GreenFuels Technology Corp. of Cambridge,
Mass. Leading-edge firms in the open-pond
category include LiveFuels Inc. of Menlo
Park, Calif.; Aurora BioFuels of Alameda, and
Seambiotic Ltd. of Tel Aviv, Israel, which has
demonstrated a system to clean CO2 from
coal-plant emissions. Genetic-modification
specialists include Solazyme Inc. of South
San Francisco, which in June received ASTM
D-975 certification of its SolaDieselRD motor
fuel; and Sapphire Energy of San Diego,
which demonstrated in May a 91-octane
gasoline. Defense contractors are working
on algal sources for jet fuel.
“The higher oil prices go, the more attractive algae start looking,” said Darzins, but he
warned that, realistically, fuel products at
marketable volume are still years away.
Sarah Curry, SOLAR TODAY’s intern, is a
master’s candidate in journalism at the University of Colorado.
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