A company based in Los Angeles, announced a potential breakthrough in getting oil from pond scum. One big difference from the spate of recent announcements in the algae-sphere: Origin’s new technology promises a better way to “milk” algae to extract their natural oils. Other approaches involve genetically-engineering algae to excrete hydrocarbon-like liquids' and cost is still a huge issue for algae-to-oil operations.
OriginOil has developed a technique called LiveExtraction that uses electrical pulses to extract oil from inside of algae without actually killing the algae itself–in other words, OriginOil milks the algae for its oil. In comparison, other algae fuel companies harvest genetically-engineered algae (and kill it), extract oil, and wait for more algae to grow. But OriginOil’s method allows a single algae cell to produce oil for much longer. saving both time and money.
OriginOil hasn’t completely ditched genetically-engineered algae, though–the company says that it “expects the new Live Extraction process to coexist with our daily ‘destructive’ process to create an even more efficient combined cycle” by removing a small portion of the algae culture daily, refreshing it and in turn removing toxins and leaving space for more algae to grow. Live Extraction has been proven in the laboratory, and now OriginOil is scaling it up to a 200-gallon tank. In other words, milked algae may be in your gas tank very soon.
According to the company, their process is inherently efficient because it achieves continuous production of algae oil without destroying the living cell. Therefore a single algae cell can produce more oil during its lifetime using lower amounts of energy. Unlike other approaches to live extraction, OriginOil’s process does not employ expensive consumables such as reverse osmosis membranes; furthermore, it is not limited to oil-bearing algae strains, such as Botryococcus braunii, that are known to excrete algae oil naturally.
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