Innovations

OMEGA developers publish system details

April 1, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

NASA’s OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) System

NASA’s OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) System

In the current Journal of Sustainable Bioenergy Systems, OMEGA system inventor Dr. Jonathan Trent and his team detail the mechanics of their innovative wastewater to algae system in the article, Microalgae Cultivation Using Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA).

OMEGA has the potential of co-locating microalgae cultivation with two major waste streams from coastal cities: wastewater and CO2. By situating OMEGA systems in the vicinity of offshore wastewater outfalls and CO2 sources, such as near-shore power plants, OMEGA can transform these waste streams into resources that produce biofuels and treat wastewater without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer, or land.

The experiments presented in the journal article explored the technical feasibility of OMEGA, using a 110-liter prototype system that was built and tested over a 23-day period. Microalgae in secondary-treated wastewater circulated through PBRs floating in seawater tanks and through a gas exchange and harvesting column, while a custom instrumentation and control system monitored and adjusted critical culture parameters.

Analyses indicated that the system was supersaturated with dissolved oxygen during the day due to photosynthesis, but at the highest light levels there was only slight photoinhibition.

Component and flow diagram of the OMEGA system showing the circulation through the PBRs, sensor manifold, and side loop for the gas exchange and harvesting column.

Component and flow diagram of the OMEGA system showing the circulation through the PBRs, sensor manifold, and side loop for the gas exchange and harvesting column.

The system rapidly used the NH3N in wastewater and had a CO2 conversion efficiency of >50%; better than the 10% – 20% conversions in other systems. The areal productivity of the system averaged 14.1 g·m2·day1 overall with peaks above 20 g·m2·day1, values consistent with reported US average microalgae productivity of 13.2 g·m2·day1.

The microalgae consistently removed >90% of the NH3N from the secondary-treated municipal wastewater tested. This result, combined with observations that the OMEGA system can remove other wastewater contaminants, suggests that a scaled-up system could provide effective wastewater treatment services.

Many open questions remain with regard to the feasibility of large-scale OMEGA systems. The small-scale prototype OMEGA system was intended for experimentation and was not designed for energy efficiency or economical scale up. For large-scale OMEGA deployment, dense configurations of PBRs, improved hydrodynamics, optimized pumping and mixing, and more sophisticated process control algorithms will be needed to increase yields, improve EROI, and lower operating costs.

Questions about the impact of biofouling, concerns about engineering systems that can cope with marine environments, and environmental issues around both environmental impact and environmental regulations will need to be answered. It remains to be seen if the need for sustainable biofuels will drive the innovation necessary to address these questions to develop large-scale OMEGA systems.

Read the full report of this first in a series of technical papers about OMEGA, published in an open access science journal: scirp.org/journal/jsbs/

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Cellana, Inc., with operations in San Diego and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has announced that David Anton, Ph.D., has been appointed Chief Operating Officer and elected to the ...
As one of the most water-poor countries in the world, Jordan’s current water resources are significantly below the global water scarcity line. Annual rainfall falls under...
Jeff Gelski writes in foodbusinessnews.net that algae oil is now in the toolbox of alternative oils shown to replace partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which cause trans...
Tubular glass photobioreactor (PBR) systems protect algae from harmful environmental factors, keeping strains safer from bio-contamination. The glass tubing itself can be...
Algae “red tide” events often create dazzling nighttime light shows of blue-green bioluminescence resulting from the force generated by breaking waves. While many mysteri...
Scientific representatives from the EnAlgae consortium are announcing preliminary results this week from a key algal carbon capture project in the works at Britain’s larg...
The vision of developing a community college degree program to train a high technology algae workforce was launched at New Mexico's Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) in 2...
While aquafarmers in Maine have been harvesting seaweed for nearly 80 years, for a variety of uses and products, in recent years wild harvests have not been able to meet ...
Rich McEachran writes in the Guardian that, in the process of surfacing a road, layers of asphalt – which is composed mostly of bitumen (a byproduct of crude oil distilla...
The fully automated plant at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP in Leuna, Germany, was designed to produce microalgae at industrial scale. ...
Using microalgae to capture CO2 is a complex process, especially in flue gas environments, reports an editorial by IEA Clean Coal Centre in worldcoal.com. There are many ...
OriginClear Inc. and partner AlgEternal have announced that, based on AlgEternal’s field tests, they believe their pure algae concentrate, harvested with OriginClear tech...
Scientists have been investigating the likely future impact of changing environmental conditions on ocean phytoplankton, which forms the basis of all the oceans' food cha...
Jessie Rack reports for NPR that demand for plant protein of all types is growing in concert with the growing interest in the U.S. to reduce meat consumption. People, fro...
The Asahi Shimbun reports that an experimental facility to produce oil from algae was constructed on former farmland that was abandoned after the March 2011 Great East Ja...