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$52 million for algae fuel development- Solazyme

August 10th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Solazyme, a company based out of California have been working on a unique method of making algae fuels by using cheap sugars to grow algae in the dark.

As you might be aware of the fact that Solazyme uses a very different approach to make biofuels, they use heterotrophic algae in the dark while the others grow photo-autotrophic algae in light.These algae however doesn?t require sunlight, they need sugar for their growth. Intrestingly, Growing these algae in dark is a simplified process. It grows faster in dark than with light.

Heterotrophic algae are fed with sugars(corn, sorghum or other sources), they consume the food and show significant growth. They can reproduce every 8 hours.

The company’s researchers feed algae sugar, which the organisms then convert into various types of oil. The oil can be extracted and further processed to make a range of fuels, including diesel and jet fuel, as well as other products.

There are some people who contradict saying , this might actually not work the sugars may turn more expensive. However, there are some researchers who argue saying that , even if they use corn as a sugar source for algae,they are still left with the corn protein and corn oil which can be used. Similarly if starch is used, they can be further used for ethanol production.

Surprisingly ,sugar-fed algae grow more rapidly. Researchers claim that algae grown in the dark can reach densities that are 1,000 times higher than strains of photo-autotrophic algae that are grown in the light . One concentrated tank of heterotrophic algae is equivalent to growing 1000 tanks of photo-autotrophic algae.

This company announced that it has raised $52 million in a series D round, which brings investment bank Morgan Stanley into its list of investors. In addition to venture-capital companies, the venture arms of Chevron and Japanese food ingredient manufacturer San-Ei Gen also participated.

Last month, it delivered 1,500 gallons of jet fuel made from algae to the U.S. Navy for testing and certification. Solazyme is also making chemicals for food ingredients and health products where its oil can be used as a substitute. Even with the funding and contracts with the U.S. military, Solazyme still faces the challenge of commercializing its technology by bringing down the cost of its oils, particularly for fuels.

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