The size range of a diatom is a few micrometers to half a millimeter.

Swedish Algae Factory, a start-up supported by EIT InnoEnergy, has received close to EUR 1.7 million from the EU LIFE programme. The grant will be used to scale up the material extraction from algae that can increase the efficiency of solar cells.

The company’s innovation increases the efficiency of solar panels by using the shell from the diatom silicon alloy. The shell of this microscopic and nanoporous silicon algae has been naturally designed through millions of years to trap light so efficiently that the algae can survive on harnessed sunlight at the bottom of the dark Nordic sea. This makes the algae shell material ideal for use in increasing the efficiency of solar panels.

In the production of silicon alloys a series of natural environmental benefits arise. Swedish Algae Factory grows the silicon algae on nutritious water from a nearby fish farm. As they grow, they capture carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous. The culture is a combination of a trap of greenhouse gases and wastewater treatment. The algae is also used to produce organic biomass that can provide a sustainable alternative to fish feed.

The material will soon start to be tested in other applications. The material has shown potential to be used as a natural UV filter in color, plastic and sunscreens, as well as an absorbent and moisture-control ingredient in skin care and cosmetics.

Thanks to the grant from EU LIFE, the production will now be scaled up to tons and will allow the company to further test the possibilities of enhancing efficiency. “Getting the grant from EU LIFE program is a quality-stamp with regards to the impact of our business. We are looking forward to scaling up our activities with the help of this grant,” said Sofie Allert, CEO of the Swedish Algae Factory.

The LIFE program is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with European added value.

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