Efficient and biologically safe: algae cultivation in glass tubes

[Global] Commercial tubular glass photobioreactors have been in profitable operation for nearly two decades, with many new algae production facilities under construction. And it’s no wonder: tubular glass systems enable algae cultivation in high density and with very high productivity. Production in closed systems is not only predictable and calculable, but also sustainable due to its high biological safety and prevention of water evaporation.

The American company CLEARAS Water Recovery developed a technology, which mixes algae and bacteria in photobioreactors to simultaneously purify wastewater and generate excess algae. For this application, SCHOTT supplied the high quality glass tubes.

Further advantages are that the glass components used are classified as harmless (GRAS; generally recognized as safe), and closed systems contribute to extremely low biomass contamination (common in ORP for instance). Even with years of high UV exposure, glass tubes remain extremely translucent (>90 percent). The smooth, hard tube surface largely prevents biofilm from forming. The scratch resistance and stability of components makes them chemically and mechanically easy to clean.

“Glass photobioreactors being much more expensive is a myth, by the way,” explains Fritz W. Wintersteller, Director of Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing. “A lifespan of over 50 years will result in significantly lower total cost of ownership than systems with commonly used disposable materials, plastic tubing or ORP. Investing in glass tubes comes out to around one euro per liter over its 50-year lifespan.”

One recent project SCHOTT has been involved in is a one-hectare PBR plant under construction in Austria for microalgae producer ecoduna. SCHOTT supplied 43,000 DURAN® glass tubes for vertical photobioreactors. ecoduna expects approximately a dry biomass output of about 100 metric tons of various algal strands per year. Additionally glass photobioreactors produce valuable biomass in water treatment as well: the American company CLEARAS Water Recovery developed ABNR™ (Advanced Biological Nutrition Recovery) technology, which mixes algae and bacteria in massive photobioreactors to simultaneously purify wastewater and generate excess algae – an additional source of income for the operator. SCHOTT has a hand in this as well, supplying the high quality glass tubes.

DURAN® is a registered trademark of DWK Life Sciences GmbH.

SCHOTT is a leading international technology group in the areas of specialty glass and glass-ceramics. The company has more than 130 years of outstanding development, materials and technology expertise and offers a broad portfolio of high-quality products and intelligent solutions. SCHOTT is an innovative enabler for many industries, including the home appliance, pharma, electronics, optics, life sciences, automotive and aviation industries. SCHOTT strives to play an important part of everyone’s life and is committed to innovation and sustainable success. The group maintains a global presence with production sites and sales offices in 34 countries. With its workforce of approximately 15,000 employees, sales of 1.99 billion euros were generated in fiscal year 2015/2016. The parent company, SCHOTT AG, has its headquarters in Mainz (Germany) and is solely owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation. As a foundation company, SCHOTT assumes special responsibility for its employees, society and the environment. www.schott.com

Photo: CLEARAS Water Recovery


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