Young scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University designed a bioreactor to grow unicellular algae, namely chlorella. Due to properly adjusted lighting mode and other cultivation conditions, the installation will produce up to 400 l of algae and water mixture within 12 hours. This mixture is a nutritious feed additive for farm animals. Now, the scientists are negotiating with farmers to test the new additive on their cattle.
Unicellular algae is a source rich of proteins and vitamins. Chlorella contains about 50 % of protein, 40 % of carbohydrates and 7-10% of fat, as well as A, B2, K, PP vitamins and many other trace elements. Unicellular algae are grown in soft warm climate of the Central Asia or Crimea in open pools with a special nutrient medium. In Siberia weather conditions do not make it possible to grow algae in such a way.
The developed installation includes a cultivation unit represented by two big tanks where algae is growing, a control unit for the nutrient medium, a heating unit and a light control unit.
“The light control unit has LEDs of three colors: red, blue and white – we can form a radiation spectrum that helps the algae to grow faster.
This is very important since proper lighting accelerates the growth of plants and algae. In the market there are systems for plant additional lighting, but they are applied for general purposes. In fact, each plant needs a special mode. The installation adjusts a unique mode for chlorella. In Russia chlorella is grown within 1 to 14 days. In the laboratory we obtain a proper concentration within 12 hours, that is at least two times faster,” says a project participant, PhD student of the Institute of High Technology Physics Alexandr Malakhov.
The installation is fully automated with all processes of lighting and temperature control run unmanned.
“The final product is a liquid suspension of algae and water. It can be stored in a dark place during a month preserving all properties. So far, we investigate a liquid product, later we will develop a technology to dry and encapsulate the algae,” adds the PhD student.
The installation for farms will cost several hundred thousand rubles. The scientists also consider an option to sell ready-made additives to framers.
The chlorella additive has been known for a long time. It speeds up the increase of animal weight, hens give eggs of a higher class, the risk of livestock loss is reduced through the enhancement of animal immunity.
The Director of the Institute of High Technology Physics Alexei Yakovlev says:
“TPU invention brings technology to a new level.
First, it uses more energy-efficient LEDs. Secondly, the growth rate of algae is much higher. Thirdly, if earlier during cultivation the algae were mixed with blades that damaged them, here mixing is done with a flow of water. This helps cells to receive light and heat evenly.”