Ecoduna’s “hanging garden” photobioreactors developed in the Phobior project

Ecoduna’s “hanging garden” photobioreactors developed in the Phobior project

The Austrian company ecoduna has been working with €1.1 million in EU funding on a project designated Phobior to develop an innovative photobioreactor for the production of microalgae with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. The Phobior project is due to end this month and ecoduna is currently working with partner Energiepark Bruck to upscale the prototype to production scale.

Phobior’s goal was to demonstrate that ecoduna’s technology could guarantee a constant supply of algae under ideal light conditions and with the ideal nutrient composition for the production of omega-3 for human nutrition. Phiobor’s sustainable solution could provide an alternative to producing omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and take the pressure off dwindling fish stocks, according to ecoduna.

The Phobior team foresees research continuing beyond the end of the project. “We aim to increase automation of the process and we’re learning more about the behavior of different algae strains every day,” says ecoduna’s sales manager David Bernhard. “This learning curve has led directly to the software we are developing.”

Ecoduna’s photobioreactor technology uses a patented rotating “hanging gardens” design which tracks the movement of the sun to ensure optimal light exposure. This design feature dilutes the light, ensuring light exposure will never be too high for ideal growth. Algae are positioned in the sunlight at a very flat angle.

The system also ensures a total absorption of CO2 by the algae. No carbon dioxide can escape and all the energy needed for integration is used by the system, reducing running costs.

Phobior’s photo-bioreactor demo plant, the first of its kind, was opened in October 2012 at the Energiepark Bruck an der Leitha in Austria. Ecoduna predicts that the success of the Phobior production unit will spur the construction and sale of hundreds of units in coming years. “The hanging gardens and the algae oil containing omega-3 represent our main products,” says Bernhard. “With the diluted light and the continuous process in our hanging gardens’ photobioreactor technology, we have invented the perfect environment for microalgae to grow.”

The company is also participating in a Danish research project that uses microalgae produced in a photobioreactor to clean industrial wastewater. “In the long run, after further technology improvements and cost reductions, we can also contribute towards using algae oil for energy, bioplastics, and water treatment,” said Bernhard.

— CORDIS news