4. Multi-Strain photobioreactors to produce ethanol and other compounds
There is a distinct need to find green chemistry alternatives to traditional chemical synthesis and fuel production. Traditional bioreactor approaches have focused on monocultures of engineered strains, or the utilization of a dominant strain when working with wastewater products. I believe we can generate synthetic ecosystems in order to harness the interaction between microbial populations.
A custom built photobioreactor proof of concept prototype
It will harness the power of a proprietary photosynthetic microbe in a mixed culture of other strains to take carbon dioxide, water, and micro-nutrients and turn them into ethanol. Rather than utilizing a batch fermentation process, the reactor will be designed for continuous extraction. Ethanol is easy to produce through fermentation, if this bioreactor is successful it will serve as a proof of concept. My goal is to use this as a model for producing other mixed strain reactors to produce more sophisticated compounds.
The proof of concept reactor can be assembled out of glassware within a biological safety cabinet, though the strains in question are BSL-1 and represent no infection or toxicity risk to humans. In order to protect my design I am omitting significant details about the reactor's construction and the strains to be utilized.
If the laboratory scale reactor functions as hypothesized, I would like to build a scaled up unit with the goal of producing as much ethanol per day out of the reactor as possible. Active research efforts will be conducted to study the reactor, the microbes, and their interactions.
Why it should be recognized:
A different approach to bioreactor creation that is scale-able to different needs.
Laboratory scale micro-reactors can be utilized to produce ethanol for transformations, fuel, and as a chemical feedstock.
If the yields prove workable, larger scale reactors could produce fuel for automobiles or rural areas in a distributed fashion.
Industrial scale reactors running in parallel can also harvest the biomass produced for further use.
I envision a low tech approach to make these reactors cheap to construct and valuable to the community. I am seeking laboratory space, scientific consulting, and a minimal amount of capital in order to build the proof of concept reactor.