DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology uses sunlight, algae, non-arable land and carbon dioxide to economically produce ethanol, a valuable commodity, and waste biomass that can be converted into other biofuels. Our proprietary technology employs enhanced blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) and Mother Nature’s photosynthesis to convert “sugar” (pyruvate) made within each cell and CO2 into ethanol and biomass.
Cyanobacteria are among the most photosynthetically active organisms on earth, and, therefore, exhibit extremely efficient carbon fixation capabilities. Algenol enhances a natural ability found in many strains of cyanobacteria to produce ethanol by over expressing fermentation pathway enzymes channeling the majority of photosynthetically fixed carbon into ethanol production rather than routine cell maintenance. It is important to note that this is one of the many reasons why our enhanced algae are non-invasive in natural habitats. Algenol has approximately 2,300 algae strains that have been collected globally, characterized and screened in order to identify strains that are uniquely qualified for commercial ethanol production.
A central component of Algenol’s Direct to Ethanol® technology is a proprietary flexible plastic film photobioreactor (PBR) that facilitates product creation and collection. The plastic used for PBR construction has been specifically engineered and enhanced with resins and other features designed to optimize a variety of performance metrics. Each individual PBR consists of ports for ethanol and biomass collection and the introduction of CO2 and nutrients. Algenol’s engineering team incorporates weather data and other commercial deployment considerations in order to design photobioreactors that optimize culture maintenance and ethanol production.
Gravity facilitates the collection of the ethanol and water condensate from the PBRs. Next, our proprietary Vapor Compression Steam Stripping (VCSS) technology further purifies the ethanol for downstream processing using standard distillation and, potentially, novel energy limiting membrane technologies ultimately producing fuel grade ethanol. These technologies in combination with the solar-powered separation in our patented photobioreactors yield ethanol from the DIRECT TO ETHANOL® process with a carbon footprint that is 80% less than that of gasoline.