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15.03.2018, Mitterteich (DE) / Bruck an der Leitha (AT)

Microalgae cultivation to perfection

Austrian company ecoduna has today commissioned the largest vertical plant for microalgae cultivation in Europe. Construction of the hectare facility was successfully completed in only ten months. SCHOTT supplied 43,000 DURAN® glass tubes for photobioreactor installation, corresponding to a total length of 230 kilometers.
Microalgae are versatile, no matter if they are to be used as a dietary supplement, in nutrition or feed, for the cosmetics industry or pharmaceuticals. Under sunlight, they produce valuable biomass more efficiently than any land plant. A technology developed by the Austrian company ecoduna AG based on vertical, glass growth units is successfully optimizing the productivity of algae cultivation. These photobioreactors are made of glass tubes from SCHOTT. “In contrast to plastic components, DURAN® glass tubes have a much longer service life, and are highly transparent and UV-resistant,” explains Fritz Wintersteller, Director of Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing. This means they last much longer without needing to be replaced, making them cost-effective and sustainable.

A customized, highly productive system

The system had to go through numerous development and test phases before it was ready for large-scale use. “Close cooperation with SCHOTT has made it possible to develop a customized, highly productive system within a very short period of time,” says Dr. Silvia Fluch, Chief Operating Officer of ecoduna. “The vertical alignment of the photobioreactors facilitates the continuous upward flow of CO2 and nutrients from the soil. This airlift principle sets the microalgae into natural motion and allows them to circulate. This makes pumps unnecessary, which protects algae from them. That’s what makes the technology so special. The vertical arrangement also significantly increases the biomass yield.”

43,000  DURAN® glass tubes

The technology is being used on a commercial scale for the first time over a hectare of space at ecoduna subsidiary eparella GmbH’s Austrian cultivation plant. “The plant’s conceptual design enables consistently high-quality, pure microalgae as well as planned and continuous harvest quantities and processing, a basic prerequisite for our business model and the expectations of our customers and partners,” explains CEO Ing. Johann Karmel. “Particularly product purity represents a clear competitive advantage compared to other countries, and the demand for GMO-free, uncontaminated materials for the food and cosmetics industries as well as for nutrition supplements is continuously increasing.” Besides manifolds and fittings, SCHOTT supplied nearly 43,000 DURAN® glass tubes, corresponding to a total length of about 230 kilometers. The glass tubes have a photoactive volume of 780,000 liters. This means that ecoduna can produce up to 100 tons of dry biomass per year, making it the largest producer of omega-3 fatty acids from microalgae in Europe. The production facility also produces various algae strains including Spirulina and Chlorella.
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