NeoChloris, Inc., the project sponsor and former tenant in our University Technology Park, has developed a patented algae photo-bioreactor (PBR) system designed to capture and convert carbon dioxide (CO2) from various industrial sources to grow algae. After harvesting, the algae can be heated to produce sustainable “bio-oil” or processed into other high value products such as pigments and paints. Whole algae biomass may also be dewatered, dried and sold as a high-value fishmeal substitute in animal feeds. Additional applications of the NeoChloris innovation include upgrading conventional sewage treatment works to enable nutrient removal through algae production.
The NeoChloris Photo-BioReactor (PBR) is a large “deep-well” underground reactor similar to the proven “deep shaft” biological wastewater treatment reactors built and operated successfully worldwide to treat sewage. The PBR must be equipped with a lighting system to provide adequate light for growing algae inside the reactor.
The objective of this IPRO project is to analyze the problem of providing adequate lighting deep underground to support this high capacity algae growing system. The system that the IPRO team designs will have the capability to use both artificial light and natural light from solar collectors. The IPRO team will investigate the methods for generating in-vessel electric lighting such as LEDs and lasers, as well as the methods for transporting concentrated natural solar light into the reactor vessels.
NeoChloris’ staff will furnish the basic information on the unit operations of the overall process and will be a valuable resource that provides direction, coaching and feedback during the entire project. The IPRO team will develop a conceptual design of a hybrid lighting system for the PBR and perform a benefit/cost analysis of the overall process. Through research and prototype development that will extend through the fall 2017 semester, the IPRO team will test this system to produce a practical design for a sustainable lighting system to power the algae growth. Upon successful completion of the project, team members may expect a Letter of Recommendation to add to their professional portfolios for future employment or application for a graduate degree.