Circular economy and sustainability have been hot topics in manufacturing over the past several years. Companies are developing new and innovative ways to enhance not only their own sustainability goals, but to more closely meet and sometimes surpass regulatory rules set forth by governmental agencies.
At Hannover Messe, Festo’s Adrian Eilingsfeld walked through the company’s five-module BionicCellFactory, a system that cultivates algae, monitors it, analyzes the harvest, processes it and refines it on an industrial scale. Let’s take a look at each module.
Module 1: CO2 collection
This module enriches the algae with a higher concentration carbon dioxide by filtering required gas from compressed air by flushing it into a chamber with a CO2-binding resin that can either absorb or release CO2. Once the appropriate amount of CO2 is available, the module heats the gas in order to concentrate and store it, where it will next be blown into the bioreactor.
Module 2: Analysis
In this module, a precision pump moves the cells from the cultivation system and feeds them into a container where they are diluted for optimal analysis. A quantum sensor developed by Q.ANT delivers the data, and an advanced vision system is used to take snapshots of the algae. AI is used to train the system to “recognize” the algae cells.
Module 3: Growing
A 45-meter tube system provided by Algo-liner allows algae to perform photosynthesis. Sensors in this module monitor the conductivity, pH, oxygen, temperature and CO2 concentration. It’s in this module that nutrients are provided to the algae so it can grow in optimal conditions.
Module 4: Harvesting Algae
A centrifuge ensures the algae is continuously harvested at 10,000 rpm and separated from the now nutrient-rich water, which is fed back into the system while the algae cells are fed into the next module for processing.
Module 5: Extraction and Processing
In the last module, molecular scissors cut open the algae cells to extract starch, proteins, dyes and oils. From here, these separated elements can be used in many applications, including food supplements, cosmetics, energy sources, bioplastics and fertilizers.
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