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Algae reactor: cheaper production of microalgae for biofuel

Until a few years ago, algae had a bad image and were mainly known to the general public as the dirty bits in waters. However, algae are rapidly becoming an attractive term for consumers. They are sustainable and have a wide applicability for different purposes such as food products, cosmetics and biofuel. Partly due to the expensive production process, algae are still relatively little used. "There must be a better way," thought employeneur Kevin Gordon. Last year, he started a project in the entrepreneurial lab to develop an algae reactor.

Kevin's first experience with algae was during an internship. At home, he then conducted various experiments and made his first proof of concept for an algae reactor. This showed that the concept is executable and that a reactor like this can actually have an effect. But to take serious steps, and to develop a concept that did not consist mainly of plastic and glue, he needed more expertise.

Growing algae in a cheaper way

Last year, Kevin organised a pizza session for colleagues who wanted to know more about his concept. After that, a project team was established that now consists of eight people with various backgrounds.

It is very valuable to start your own project in the lab. You really have to act as an entrepreneur to turn your idea into a success.

An algae reactor in itself is not new, but the existing models use a lot of water and energy. This makes the cultivation of algae relatively expensive, and it is therefore not yet used on a large scale for biofuel, for example. Kevin's team aims to set up a continuous process, so that a constant harvest can be realised. They do this with a system that is made as straightforward as possible, so that the user does not need any knowledge of complex chemicals or extra equipment such as filters or pumps. The first prototype has been completed and the team is now working on the modelling. They are investigating which parameters are needed to make the best possible reactor and predict the optimal settings.

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Curious about the whole story?

Kevin: "It is very valuable to start your own project in the lab. You really have to act as an entrepreneur to turn your idea into a success. For example, at the start I worked with Lotte on a Lean Startup Canvas. This is a model to find out what your idea really means: Does it help people or companies? What problem does it solve? Is there a real need for your product? And what focus should you take? This allowed me to better guide the project in a specific direction: an algae reactor for the biofuel and pet food sectors.

Meaningful projects in the lab

In the Entrepreneurial Lab of TMC various projects are initiated each year. Many of these projects contribute to the environment or society in some way. "It is great to see that technicians find it increasingly important to do work that really has an impact on a better world. This project contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. It is cool to have another project from the Entrepreneurial Lab which hopefully makes the world a little greener," says Lotte Geertsen, director of TMC's Entrepreneurial Lab.

Lotte Geertsen

Director TMC Entrepreneurial Lab, Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)6 55 71 49 68

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