Two LSU faculty members were recently awarded a patent for a miniature, self-powered light that boosts the production of algae used for health supplements, food, dyes and biofuels, the school announced last week.
Maria Teresa Gutierrez-Wing, assistant professor of research at LSU AgCenter, and LSU
adjunct professor Jin-Woo Choi say the devices can triple algae production in a space as well as lower overall production costs. Their light can adjust light wavelengths to increase chlorophyll and oil content, control pigment, and speed growth.
“Algae needs light to grow, but sunlight or light from conventional lamps can penetrate only three to four inches beneath the water’s surface,” says Gutierrez-Wing. “Our lights can be programmed to suspend themselves at different water depths, so the algae can grow in thicker layers.”
Conventional artificial lighting systems account for as much as half of algae production expenses, but Choi and Gutierrez-Wing’s lights sharply cut those costs. Their lights harvest the energy from water movement—pumps circulate the water in algae ponds—for power.
The pair have been working on their light design since 2013 and co-founded Envirotronics, a startup housed at LSU Innovation Park, to commercialize their lights as well as water filters used in aquaculture. LSU’s Office of Innovation & Ecosystem Development helped the professors shepherd their invention from concept through the patent process.