This sort of blows my mind. Algae can be grown in the dark and fed waste glycerine.
Has anyone heard of this? Cause one of the questions I have, does it also need co2, or is the glycerine replacing nutrients that would otherwise be in wastewater?
I have recently been carrying out some heterotrophic growth experiments in my lab at Penn State. Companies such as Solazyme do this commercially in large fermentors (in the dark) using sugar.
When algae grow in the dark they don't have the "light" energy to convert CO2 to biomass. An external carbon energy source such as glucose (sugar), glycerol or acetate is needed for biomass growth.
When they grow in this fashion, they don't use CO2, but rather need oxygen and they actually respirate CO2.
Some algae, such as Chlorella vulgaris, both in the light and using a carbon feed which is called "mixotrophic". Thus it can convert both CO2 and glycerol/glucose into biomass. I would be interested in carrying out an experiment to use both biodiesel derived glycerol to grow algae in the light to also capture CO2. It would be interesting to see if the algae can grow faster if it is cloudy out because they have that extra carbon source.
Chemical & Energy Engineering -- The Pennsylvania State University
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