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 NH3-N 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 NH3-N 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
Oregon State University researchers are combining diatoms, a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae, with nanoparticles to create a sensor capable of detecting minisc...
Chase Ezell writes in Earth911.com about the irony of Algenol’s biggest friction source on the way to marketing their carbon reducing algal-based ethanol being — the EPA ...
Biplab Das reports in NatureAsia.com that a research team has found aqueous extracts of the marine brown algae Lobophoro variegate that can inhibit the replication of hum...
U.S. farmers and biofuels makers are watching for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final decision on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard rules, which will set t...
Arizona is taking advantage of its open land and ample sunshine to assume a leadership position in the algae biofuel field. The state is home to two national algae testbe...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced a full suite of open pond microalgae growth systems designed for quick deployment of research- ...
Renewable fuels company Muradel has launched Australia’s first integrated demonstration plant to sustainably convert algae into green crude, as a first step towards a com...
Solazyme, Inc. and Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of Eni S.p.A., one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, today announced a partnership to expand the commerci...
Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from ...
In October 2014 an unusual AlgaePARC research paper entitled Design and construction of the microalgal pilot facility AlgaePARC was published in the Journal of Algal Rese...
Phys.org reports that, in collaboration with the Berlin, Germany LED manufacturer FutureLED, scientists at the Technische Universität München have developed a unique comb...
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae because of their color, have endured for more than 2.5 billion years, providing ample time to adapt to changes in the Earth'...
Tess Riley writes in TheGuardian.com about how spirulina may be able to combat malnutrition in developing countries. Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on Earth, c...
Kevin Quon writes in Seeking Alpha about the financial plights and pivots of Solazyme, the algae industry’s most high profile recent IPO. In a year that started with a sh...
Green Star Products, Inc. (GSPI) has signed a contract to build a demonstration facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, to produce commercial quality algae. The Hybrid Algae Produ...
West Chester, Pennsylvania-based International Sustainability Group, Inc., an innovative green technology and sustainable manufacturing company, has entered the algae mar...
Fort Myers, FL-based Algenol has announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved fuels made from Algenol’s process as an advanced biofuel, meet...
Designboom.com is showcasing the “Spirulina Fountain” designed by bureau A. The installation constitutes a hybrid, fusing the production basins of the intense blue-green ...