Academic Venture Fund - 2010

Thousandfold Improvement in Solar Photobioreactors

Diagram of Solar Photobioreactor

The natural photosynthetic process—using solar energy to capture carbon dioxide and produce biofuel and oxygen—provides the ultimate model of sustainable energy generation. An emerging strategy for harnessing photosynthesis is the direct conversion of carbon dioxide to biofuel using photosynthetic bacteria, such as cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), but the technology is limited by current reactor designs. This project will develop a proof-of-concept photobioreactor at least three orders of magnitude more efficient than current reactors. The new photobioreactor will make solar biofuel generation feasible year-round, even in climates like New York State—promising energy security for the United States and environmental sustainability on a global scale.

Investigators: David Erickson, Lars Angenent, David Sinton