For the algae company Bionavitas, one problem solved for making biofuels

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - 10:02 AM


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Producer's notes

Bionavitas Inc. in Redmond, Washington, has a tricked out proposition for growing algae for biofuels, and they shared their trade secrets with The Takeaway before anyone else. What's that? You want to know more about the methods to their algae growing madness? Well sure, twist my arm...

Step one. Find a pond polluted with agricultural fertilizer, and toss in some algae.

Problem! Our algae love all the nitrogen in that lake, and they are growing like crazy. But, once the algae covers the surface of the pool, the sunlight is blocked, so no microflora can grow below the top layer.

Solution? Take some glass rods (which look like "turkey basters" — thanks John Hockenberry), and partially stick them into the soupy mess, leaving their top ends exposed. When sunlight lands on the ends of the rods, at the surface of the water, the light travels down the glass and disperses into the water as it goes, thus providing our deeper algae-brethren with an internal, solar light source. Problem solved!

It seems so simple! But don't trust my explanation. For the inside scoop, check out The Takeaway's video from Bionavitas' lab above, as well as our on-air interview with CEO Michael Weaver. Be sure to wear your shades while watching — as you'll see, growing algae involves a lot of bright lights.

— Molly Webster


The Takeaway is on a Power Trip, taking an in-depth look at the future of energy: technologies, ideas, innovators, and your stories about the one thing that you won't give up to save energy.

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