Weatherford Democrat


January 25, 2010

Entrepreneur seeks algae-to-fuel conversion key


"I should mention, too, this innovation center (ITEC) here has been a blessing to us," Bartilson says.

Photon8 isn't the only company researching algae-to-biodiesel, though it may be more focused on economic feasibility than some others. In order words, it has to turn a profit. Studying other researchers' methods and claims, Bartilson found that the cost of production far exceeded projected revenue because of capital costs: the physical equipment necessary to do the work.

"Regardless of what anybody does with genetics or anything else, this capital cost has to be down in single digits," Bartilson says. "That's when I invented this photo-bio reactor and started developing it, because nothing else matters if I don't get the capital costs down."

Grossly oversimplified, Photon8's method calls for a closed, transparent infrastructure spread out over a large land area and containing a circulating algae "broth" that's exposed to sunlight in order to produce the oily lipids, which are then harvested for biodiesel production.

University collaboration was one of the conditions for receiving money from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Bartilson's team is working with University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College faculty members Tamara Pease, a professor of chemistry and environmental science (who just happens to be an expert on algae growth dynamics and lipid analysis), and Danielle Provenzano, a professor of biological sciences assisting Photon8 with genetics.

Pease says the Photon8 project is a "tremendous opportunity" not just for her chemistry and environmental science students but also business and engineering students to get hands-on experience with a high-tech start-up company. The timing of Photon8's arrival is perfect, since her department was already developing a master's degree program in sustainability studies with the departments of engineering and business, she says.

Text Only
Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage