he Algae and Biofuels Laboratory at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is partnering with Lianhenghui Investment Company to construct a five-acre algae production facility in Zhengzhou, China.
The new facility will feature CAER’s novel photobioreactor technology for growing algae, which will be used for the production of nutraceuticals, bioplastics and fuels. Lianhenghui is also constructing a second, smaller facility in Zhengzhou (2.5 acres), which will employ the same technology to grow algae for the production of nutraceuticals.
The initial funding for CAER’s photobioreactor development was provided by the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence, as part of a project to investigate the potential of algae for the capturing and recycling of power plant CO2 emissions. After years of research, the lab partnered with Duke Energy’s East Bend Station to install a photobioreactor at that site in late 2012.
CAER’s Algae and Biofuels group, led by Mark Crocker, has accumulated considerable experience in the catalytic conversion of different forms of biomass to fuels and chemicals — specializing in photobioreactor design, construction and operation; photobioreactor integration with power plants; and algae cultivation, harvesting and dewatering.
“Getting to see our innovations go from the lab to practice at Duke Energy’s East Bend Station in Boone County, Kentucky – and now on to an international market – is gratifying,” said Dr. Crocker. “We look forward to learning more from our partners at Lianhenghui Investment Company.”
In June 2014, CAER licensed its photobioreactor technology to Lianhenghui. Together, UK and Lianhenghui have patented the first and second generation photobioreactor technology in China, and they are in the process of patenting the second generation reactor technology in the United States.
“This is an exciting achievement for Mark Crocker and the entire Biofuels group here at CAER,” said Rodney Andrews, director of CAER. “They have been persistent in their efforts to improve the technology, constantly refining their process and improving our understanding of how the biology and engineering systems interact. We look forward to seeing the results of this partnership with Lianhenghui.”