United States Patent: 8658420

Early this morning, August 1, 2014, we were struck by a front-page exposure of the unnecessary unrest, fears and emotions being felt and expressed on both sides, really, of the Carbon Dioxide debate.

We can't include a link that will take you to it on the web, but, the print/news-stand edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried, for us, a visually-intriguing juxtaposition of stories, with photos, side-by-side on their front page.

 

One article concerned what some have called the "Rally To Support America Energy" in downtown Pittsburgh, and was titled in a way that reflects the public assumptions and bias that have been so assiduously fostered by those openly - and those in secret - opposed to the use of Coal in the generation of truly abundant, truly reliable, and genuinely affordable electric power: 

"Coal Vs. Climate: Sides Clash In Downtown Protest".

The other concerned the Pittsburgh-headquartered Bayer Corporation, and a large sign bearing their iconic Bayer Cross logo high on a hill just outside of, and overlooking, Pittsburgh:

"Prominent Hilltop Sign To Say Bayer No More".

We couldn't read the full stories at the stand, and really - really, actually - couldn't afford the full buck it now costs to buy a copy. But, unless it was buried deep in the articles where a quick and free scan wouldn't spot it, not appearing in any newspaper, anywhere, is the fact, that, as seen in our reports of: 

Bayer Is Converting Coal Power Plant CO2 Into Plastics | Research & Development | News; concerning: "'Bayer Material Science CO2-to-Plastics Pilot Plant, Germany'; In February 2011, Bayer MaterialScience started a new pilot plant (in   the) North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany for producing plastics from   carbon dioxide (CO2). It will be used to develop   polyurethanes from the waste gas released during power generation"; and:

Bayer's CO2 Recycling Dream Comes True | Research & Development | News; concerning the Bayer publication:  "A Dream Comes True; 2010"; wherein Bayer Corporation clearly tells us, that, although "Crude oil is the raw material used to produce most plastics", "CO2 is to be integrated into the molecular structure of plastics and thus reduce the use of crude oil in the production of these indispensable engineering materials";

Bayer has developed, and is at a Coal-fired power plant in Germany utilizing, technologies that enable the chemical consumption of Carbon Dioxide, as a direct replacement for raw materials conventionally derived from increasingly-scarce natural petroleum, in the synthesis of high-volume, high-performance, and high-value plastics and polymers - - in which polymers the CO2 consumed will be forever, and productively, and profitably, "sequestered".

Further, in addition to the direct chemical utilization of Carbon Dioxide in the synthesis of polymers, as above, as we've now seen in many reports, as for just two examples:

USDOE Algae Recycle More CO2 and Produce Ethanol | Research & Development | News; concerning:

"United States Patent 7,973,214 - Designer Organisms for Photosynthetic Production of Ethanol from CO2 and Water;  July 5, 2011; Inventor: James Weifu Lee, TN; Assignee: UT-Battelle, LLC, Oak Ridge (USDOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory)"; and:

Algae Recycle More CO2 and Produce Butanol | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20110177571 - Designer Calvin-Cycle-Channeled Production of Butanol; 2011; Inventor: James Weifu Lee, Abstract: Designer Calvin-cycle-channeled and photosynthetic ... pathways, the associated designer genes and designer transgenic photosynthetic organisms for photobiological production of butanol and related higher alcohols from carbon dioxide and water are provided. The designer photosynthetic organisms such as designer transgenic oxyphotobacteria and algae comprise designer Calvin-cycle-channeled and photosynthetic NADPH-enhanced pathway gene(s) and biosafety-guarding technology for enhanced photobiological production of butanol and related higher alcohols from carbon dioxide and water";

it is feasible now to culture certain strains of algae, and what are known as cyanobacteria, that are capable of producing valuable fuels like "ethanol", and even "higher alcohols" which have enough energy content that they can be thought of as Biogasoline, when those organisms are fed a diet of  "water" and, as recovered from whatever handy source, "carbon dioxide".

And, as seen in our report of:

Bayer Corporation Converts CO2 into "Biogasoline" | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20110065157 - Photobioreactor for Algae Growth; 2011; Inventors: Rudiger Gorny, et. al., Pennsylvania and Germany; (Presumed Assignee of Rights: Bayer Corporation); Abstract: The present invention provides a flow-through photobioreactor ... . CO2 from power plants ... can be artificially fed to increase yield";  

the admirable Bayer Corporation has been devoting effort to the development of technologies which would enable and optimize that sort of Carbon Dioxide utilization, as well.

Further, herein, we see that technical experts in the employ of our United States Government earlier this year confirmed that Bayer Corporation had, indeed, devised improved technology that would "increase" the "yield" of Biofuels produced by "Algae" that were fed "CO2 from power plants", through, as excerpted from the initial link in this dispatch, their issuance and allowance of:

"United States Patent 8,658,420 - Photobioreactor for Algae Growth

Photobioreactor for algae growth - Bayer MaterialScience LLC

Patent US8658420 - Photobioreactor for algae growth - Google Patents

Date: February 25, 2014

Inventors: Rudiger Gorny, et. al., Pennsylvania and Germany

Assignee: Bayer Material Science, AG and LLC, Germany and Pittsburgh, PA

Abstract: The present invention provides a flow-through photobioreactor containing at least one thermoplastic multi-wall sheet having an upper layer and a lower layer having arranged there between at least two sidewalls, at least one inner wall and two or more end caps. Also provided is a process for the production of a biofuel with the inventive photobioreactor. The photobioreactor and process of the present invention have the following advantages: genetically engineered microbes that give higher yields cannot escape into the environment, water in the system does not evaporate, no weeding (presence of unwanted algae), UV light from the sun is filtered out by the reactor walls, temperature control is possible,

CO2 from power plants, breweries, etc. can be artificially fed to increase yield.

The inventive photobioreactor is also less expensive to build than pipe reactors and may have low energy costs to operate, because little or no energy is needed for agitation and pumping in a preferred gravity assisted embodiment.

Claims: A flow-through photobioreactor comprising at least one thermoplastic multi-wall sheet having an upper layer and a lower layer having arranged there between at least two sidewalls, at least one inner wall, two or more end caps, and an algae reservoir positioned above the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet to permit algae flow into the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet, wherein the upper layer and the lower layer are each made of one material independently selected from the group consisting of transparent or translucent polycarbonate, co-polycarbonate, polyestercarbonate, copolyestercarbonate, siloxane-polycarbonate, siloxane-copolycarbonate, polyester, co-polyester, polyvinyl chloride, co-polyvinyl chloride, polymethylmethacrylate, co-polymethylmethacrylate, polypropylene, cyclic olefin copolymer, fluoropolymers, thermoplastic olefin, styrene acrylonitrile, thermoplastic polyurethane and transparent or translucent blends thereof and wherein an outer surface of the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet has applied thereto one or more outer cap layers.

(As we noted in our report of "United States Patent Application 20110065157 - Photobioreactor for Algae Growth", many of the above polymers are already produced and marketed by Bayer, so development of this technology represents something of an exercise in "pull-through" marketing for them. But, consider, that, as in our reports concerning Bayer's "CO2-to-Plastics Pilot Plant, Germany" and "A Dream Comes True; 2010; CO2 is to be integrated into the molecular structure of plastics"; increasing the sales and utilization of plastics for use in CO2-consuming 'Bioreactor"s could, indirectly, lead to an additional use and consumption of Carbon Dioxide.)

The flow-through photobioreactor (designed and constructed as described, and made of) a member selected from the group consisting of co-polycarbonate, polyester, co-polyester, polyvinyl chloride, co-polyvinyl chloride, polymethylmethacrylate, co-polymethylmethacrylate, polypropylene, cyclic olefin copolymer, fluoropolymers, thermoplastic olefin, styrene acrylonitrile, thermoplastic polyurethane, transparent or translucent blends thereof and clearcoats.

The flow-through photobioreactor ...wherein the upper layer of the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet has a light transmission of greater than 70% (to) greater than 87%.

The flow-through photobioreactor ... wherein the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet has a thickness of from about 4 inches to about 6 inches.

A process for the production of a biofuel comprising: flowing an algae solution into a flow-through photobioreactor comprising at least one thermoplastic multi-wall sheet having an upper layer and a lower layer and having arranged there between at least two sidewalls, at least one inner wall, two or more end caps and an algae reservoir positioned above the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet to permit algae flow into the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet, wherein the upper layer and the lower layer are each made of one material independently selected from the group consisting of transparent or translucent polycarbonate, co-polycarbonate, polyestercarbonate, copolyestercarbonate, siloxane-polycarbonate, siloxane-copolycarhonate, polyester, co-polyester, polyvinyl chloride, co-polyvinyl chloride, polymethylmethacrylate, co-polymethylmethacrylate, polypropylene, cyclic olefin copolymer, fluoropolymers, thermoplastic olefin, styrene acrylonitrile, thermoplastic polyurethane and transparent or translucent blends thereof and wherein an outer surface of the thermoplastic multi-wall sheet has applied thereto one or more outer cap layers; exposing the algae solution to sunlight; harvesting the algae; drying the algae; extracting oil from the dried algae; and converting the oil to a biofuel.

The process ... wherein the biofuel is selected from the group consisting of biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, and biobutanol.

Background and Field: The present invention relates in general to microbe growth and more specifically to a multi-wall thermoplastic, flow-through photobiorcactor for cultivation of algae for the production of biofuel.

Due to the ever escalating price of petroleum and the increasing competition between foods and other biofuel sources, there is a greater interest in algaculture (farming algae) for making biofuels such as biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, and biobutanol. One proposed benefit from the production of biofuels from algae lies in helping to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at its present level because during photosynthesis, algae and other photosynthetic organisms capture carbon dioxide and sunlight and convert those into oxygen and biomass.

As those skilled in the art are aware, there are two basic processes used to grow microbes such as algae and/or bacteria, in large amounts e.g. for the biodiesel generation. One process is to use open ponds and the other is to use closed reactors.

(There) continues to exist a need in the art for photobioreactors for algae growth (e.g. for biofuel generation) that are less expensive to set up and to operate than conventional pipe reactors and which give high algae yields.

Accordingly, the present invention provides such a photobioreactor. The inventive flow-through photobioreactor contains at least one thermoplastic multi-wall sheet having an upper layer and a lower layer having arranged there between at least two sidewalls, at least one inner wall and two or more end caps. Also provided is a process for the production of a biofuel with the inventive flow-through photobioreactor involving flowing an algae solution into a photobioreactor containing at least one thermoplastic multi-wall sheet having an upper layer and a lower layer having arranged there between at least two sidewalls, at least one inner wall and two or more end caps, exposing the algae solution to sunlight, harvesting oil from the algae and converting the oil to a biofuel.

The flow-through photobioreactor and process of the present invention have the following advantages: genetically engineered microbes that give higher yields cannot escape into the environment, water in the system does not evaporate, no weeding (presence of unwanted algae), UV light from the sun is filtered out by the reactor walls, temperature control is possible, and CO2 from power plants, breweries, etc. can be artificially fed to increase yield. The inventive photobioreactor is also less expensive to build than pipe reactors and may have low energy costs to operate, because little or no energy is needed for agitation and pumping in a gravity assisted embodiment.

The photobioreactor of the present invention may be used to produce a variety of biofuels such as biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol and biobutanol".

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Rather serious, very daunting, computer problems inhibit us from including more reference links, but, whether or not there is such a thing as "biogasoline", there is, definitely, "biomethanol", and, as we have many times documented, Methanol - - no matter which of our abundant domestic United States resources we make it from, whether Coal, or, as herein, Carbon Dioxide - - can be efficiently converted into Gasoline via, for one example, ExxonMobil's "MTG(r)", methanol-to-gasoline, process.

High-energy alcohols, like Butanol, "biobutanol", are capable of serving as almost direct replacements for Gasoline

And, it is well known that some types of Algae produce oils that can serve as feedstock for the refining and formulation of Diesel fuel.

Bayer's own purposes would likely be served by the alcohols which the Algae make out of the "CO2 from power plants", since those alcohols, as well as being able to serve as fuels for internal combustion engines, can also serve as the raw materials from which certain plastics and polymers can be synthesized.

We'll have even more on all of the above in reports to follow, but, one point herein is clear:

As confirmed by experts in the employ of our United States Government, the knowledge and technology to use and consume "CO2 from power plants", as the basic and key raw material in the synthesis of valuable fuel, and industrial raw material, alcohols, such as Ethanol, Methanol and Butanol, in biologically-mediated processes exists; and, technically advanced and socially responsible major corporations, like Bayer, are working to further improve that technology and to make it more efficient, more affordable and more practical.

And, the point of it all is this:

Carbon Dioxide, as it is co-produced in only a small way, relative to some all-natural and un-taxable sources of its emission - such as the Earth's inexorable processes of planetary volcanism - from our economically essential use of Coal in the generation of abundant, reliable, and affordable electric power, can be seen and treated as a valuable raw material resource.

Maybe some of the front page space in Coal Country regional newspapers should have been devoted, and perhaps more productively so, to that story, as well.


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