News Column

Patent Issued for System for Fermentation Using Algae

July 8, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Life Science Weekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx journalists, a patent by the inventors Shepherd, Samuel L. (Houston, TX); McCall, Jerry (Houston, TX), filed on May 5, 2008, was published online on June 24, 2014 (see also Missing Link Technologies, L.L.C.).

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8759068, is Missing Link Technologies, L.L.C. (Houston, TX).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to systems for fermentation. More particularly, the present invention relates to systems for fermentation using algae as the microorganism.

"Including Information Disclosed Under 37 CFR 1.97 and 37 CFR 1.98.

"From the simplest to the most complex, biological processes maybe classified as fermentation, elementary physiological processes, and the action of living organisms. Fermentation is a biological reaction whereby a raw organic material is converted into a product by the action of microorganisms or by the action of enzymes produced by microorganisms. In atypical fermentation reaction, a raw organic material is fed into a reactor. The raw organic material can be any carbon-based material including, but not limited to, carbon dioxide, sugar products, sewage sludge, animal manures and cellulosic materials. Once in the reactor, the raw organic material is mixed with microorganisms or microbes that are suitably chosen for a desired reaction with the raw organic material. The group of microorganisms or microbes includes, but is not limited to, yeasts, bacteria, algae, molds, and protozoa.

"A reaction occurs whereby a product is formed by mixing the raw organic material with the microorganisms. This product depends on the type of raw organic material used as well as the type of microorganisms or microbes used. The product of the fermentation reaction is typically recovered from the biomass of the reaction through various separation methods such as dewatering and floatation.

"Fermentation processes are known as autocatalytic processes. The autocatalytic behavior of a fermentation process is represented by a sequence of events. First, when the raw organic material is first introduced into the fermentation reactor, there is only a small amount of catalytic microorganisms present in the reactor. Thus, the conversion of the raw organic material into product is slow, i.e., the rate of reaction is very low. However, as the concentration, or number, of microorganisms increases, the reaction rate rises, producing more microorganisms and more products. In a typical fermentation reaction, the reaction rate reaches a maximum followed by a gradual die-off of the raw organic material. At this point, there is very little raw organic material and a lot of product, so the rate eventually slows until there is no reaction.

"Because of their nature, fermentation reactions are typically carried out in a batch reactor. Batch reactors involve reacting a finite amount of material from start to completion and then starting over with a new finite amount of material in the reactor. This type of reactor is in contrast to a continuous reactor that continuously reacts a continuous supply of material. Because batch processes inevitably have a reaction that ends, they have a high operating cost, high capital cost, complicated sequencing, and limited production capabilities. Thus, there is a need for systems allowing for continuous fermentation that have improved operating cost, capital cost, and production capabilities over batch operations.

"In the past, various patents have issued relating to systems for fermentation. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,599,735, issued on Jul. 29, 2003 to the Bartok et al., describes fermentation assembly comprising a vessel for culturing living cells, at least two storage flasks in fluid communication with the vessel for supply of liquids and a first transport means for transferring the liquids from the storage flasks to the vessel, individual appliances operably connected to the transport means for monitoring the supply of the contents of the storage flasks to the vessel, a harvest flask in fluid communication with the vessel and a second transport means for transferring the fermentation broth from the vessel to the harvest flask, and a device operably connected to the first transport means for controlling and maintaining a constant dilution rate in the vessel with varying rates of individual supply of liquid from the storage flasks to the vessel

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,688,674, issued on Nov. 18, 1997 to Choi et al., describes a metabolite, e.g., ethanol, that is continuously produced from low cost carbohydrate substrates by a process which comprises pulverizing the carbohydrate substrate, liquefying and saccharifying the pulverized substrate, continuously fermenting the lique-saccharified substrate in a fermentor equipped with a moving filter, in the presence of flocculent biological cells maintained at a concentration ranging from 90 to 160 g/l by using the moving filter and a culture medium to produce a fermentation product mixture, and recovering the desired metabolite from the fermentation product mixture.

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,069,149, issued on Jan. 17, 1978 to Jackson, describes a deep-tank reactor utilized for fermentation of waste liquid or other liquid in a biological reaction resulting in a solid cellular material. The resulting solid material, which is in suspension, is initially separated from the bulk of the liquid by a gaseous flotation process, using the dissolved gas in the liquid as the source of gaseous bubbles for flotation purposes.

"U.S. Pat. No. 4,286,066, issued on Aug. 25, 1981 to Butler et al., describes an apparatus for continuously fermenting a moist particulate feed and distilling the fermentation product where a pressure-locked auger forces a moist particulate feed from a hopper into a fermentation tank. Liquor is removed from the tank, and solids are separated therefrom to produce a beer which is distilled in a distillation column. A combustion engine powers the auger and the means for separating solids, and the engine exhaust surrounds an inlet section of said auger to help heat the pressurized feed therein to produce fermentable sugar within the auger, and the auger includes a section passing to the tank in heat exchange relation to the distillation column to provide heat for distillation. The column is a multistage column angled to face the sun and has an upper glass plate to allow solar radiation to enter and penetrate between the foraminous plates of the column.

"It is an object of the present invention to provide a system for fermentation using algae.

"It is another object of the present invention to achieve up to 80% reduction in the operating costs of batch fermentation processes.

"It is another object of the present invention to provide a reactor design that optimizes fermentation reaction.

"It is another object of the present invention to provide a system for fermentation of any raw organic material.

"It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an optimal reactor design for any given set of operating conditions.

"These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from a reading of the attached specification."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, NewsRx editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present invention is a system for continuous fermentation using algae comprising at least one fermentation reactor having a first reactor section and a second reactor section. The first reactor section is a continuous stirred tank reactor and the second reactor section is a plug flow reactor. The first reactor section and the second reactor section are separated by a first baffle, the first baffle being movable within the fermentation reactor. The first reactor section has a second baffle that can be varied in size or shape so as to optimize the fermentation reaction within the first reactor section. In particular, the baffle of the second reactor position can be positioned for a residence time of up to seven days.

"A dewatering means for removing water from the biomass product from the fermentation reactor is in fluid communication with the plug flow reactor of the second reactor section of the fermentation reactor. A cell lysis chamber is in fluid communication with the dewatering means, and a separator is in fluid communication with the cell lysis chamber. A storage tank is in fluid communication with the separator, and a mixing tank is in fluid communication with the dewatering means and with the cell lysis chamber and with the separator and with the fermentation reactor. An anaerobic digester is in fluid communication with the cell lysis chamber.

"The continuous stirred tank reactor has an inlet and an outlet, and the plug flow reactor has an inlet and outlet. The inlet of the plug flow reactor is in fluid communication with the outlet of the continuous stirred tank reactor. The first baffle separating the continuous stirred tank reactor and the plug flow reactor is movable and has an opening therein, and the opening is coincident with the outlet of the continuous stirred tank reactor and the inlet of the plug flow reactor. The baffle can be moved within the fermentation reactor so as to adjust the size of the continuous stirred tank reactor and the volume of the plug flow reactor for optimal conditions for reacting a given raw feed material. The plug flow reactor is impervious to light. The plug flow reactor has a residence time of up to seven days.

"After the dewatering means water is sent to the mixing tank, it is further mixed with additional water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide. The dewatered biomass from the dewatering means is sent to the cell lysis chamber where product is removed from the biomass. The biomass is sent to the anaerobic digester and the product is sent to the separator where water is removed from oil. The water that is removed from the product goes to the mixing tank, and the product goes to the storage tank. The water that is mixed with new water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide in the mixing tank is recycled back to the fermentation reactor. Biogas is recovered from the biomass in the anaerobic digester.

"In another embodiment of the invention, the system for fermentation using algae comprises a first reactor having a generally cylindrical shape and a biomass inlet and a second reactor being in fluid communication with the first reactor. A first valve means is placed between the first reactor and the second reactor to control the fluid connection between the first reactor and the second reactor. A gas inlet, in fluid connection to the first reactor, is located at an end opposite the second reactor. A compressor unit and gas source are in fluid connection with the gas inlet. A devolatization unit is connected to the second reactor by a second valve means and has a transfer pump and a gas line. The gas line connects to the compressor, while the second valve means controls fluid connection between the second reactor and the devolatization unit. The gas source is a carbon dioxide supply. The first reactor having a mixing nozzle within an interior volume thereof.

"The method for fermentation using algae, for this embodiment includes injecting gas into a biomass stream containing oil, a liquid portion, a solid portion. The gas is dissolved into the biomass stream under mixing conditions in the first reactor. The biomass stream mixture transfers into a second reactor where the gas is defused into the cellular structure of the biomass stream. The biomass stream mixture passes through a second valve, so that the gas changes phase from liquid to vapor within the biomass cellular structure and ruptures the cellular structure. The depressurized mixture is conveyed to a devolatization unit, wherein the gas, the oil, and the solids being separated. The oil is skimmed from the surface of the depressurized mixture, the gas is recycled though a gas line, and the solids are removed by a transfer pump."

For more information, see this patent: Shepherd, Samuel L.; McCall, Jerry. System for Fermentation Using Algae. U.S. Patent Number 8759068, filed May 5, 2008, and published online on June 24, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Chemicals, Chemistry, Legal Issues, Carbon Dioxide, Cellular Structures, Inorganic Carbon Compounds, Missing Link Technologies L.L.C..

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Source: Life Science Weekly

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