In the wake of losing a long term algae partnership with ExxonMobil, Viridos, Inc., a leading algae biofuel company creating sustainable, low-carbon, algae-based jet and diesel fuel, has raised a $25M equity investment. The Series A funding was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) and joined by Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and United Airlines Ventures. The investment round will be used for R&D to further increase algae oil productivity to reach commercially deployable levels.
Globally, diesel and jet fuel account for over a third of the liquid fossil fuel used. The heavy transportation sector comprising aviation, shipping, and long-distance trucking relies on these fuels, with demand expected to continue to grow for decades, creating major decarbonization challenges.
Viridos intends to solve this challenge by leading the bioengineering of microalgae and has already achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to wild algae. This sets the stage for the scalable and sustainable production of algae oil as the feedstock of choice for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel (RD). SAF and RD made from Viridos algae oil are expected to have a 70% reduced carbon footprint.
Viridos’ bioengineering technology consists of genetically engineering algae, combined with optimized production processes and systems to enable large scale production. The company’s unique approach combines several important and unique attributes contributing to scalability and sustainability, including:
- Surface area oil productivities that far exceed any traditional oil crop, achieving high algae oil output on comparatively small areas.
- Being grown in vessels containing seawater. This allows contained deployment in hot and dry locations without taxing scarce freshwater and arable land resources, while eliminating runoff.
- An extremely high oil contents facilitating downstream processing to algae oil.
- A quality plant oil allowing existing bio-refineries to process the oil with high yields.
“By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land. We are excited to have the support from BEV, the leading energy transition venture capital fund, Chevron, and United Airlines. Together we can build the ecosystem needed to bring algae biofuels to the market,” said Oliver Fetzer, Viridos Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to bringing our oil-producing algae to commercial readiness and then growing them to produce scalable quantities of SAF and RD.”
“Decarbonizing the heavy transportation industry is critical for addressing climate change and therefore a top priority for BEV,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Oliver and his team at Viridos have a promising technology for converting algae into sustainable liquid fuels. The science behind their platform positions them to crack the code on the critical barriers to scale, making Viridos an important addition to BEV’s portfolio.”
“SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock,” said United Airlines Ventures President Mike Leskinen. “As the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, United remains committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, without relying on traditional carbon offsets by 2050. Viridos’ algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources, and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry Sustainable Flight Fund.”
In the News…
Scientists Transform Algae into Functional, Tunable Perovskites
Perovskites are materials that are increasingly popular for a wide range of applications because of their remarkable electrical, optical, and photonic properties. Perovskite materials have the potential to revolutionize the fields of solar energy, sensing and detecting, photocatalysis, lasers, and others.
The properties of perovskites can be tuned for specific applications by changing their chemical composition and internal architecture, including the distribution and orientation of its crystal structure. At the moment, the ability to influence these properties is massively limited by manufacturing methods. A team of scientists at TU Dresden was able to create perovskites with unique nano-architectures and crystal properties from algae, taking advantage of years of evolution of these single-celled organisms.
“Unicellular organisms have responded over hundreds of millions of years to a wide range of environmental factors such as temperature, pH, and mechanical stress. As a result, some of them evolved to produce absolutely unique biomaterials that are exclusive to nature,” says Dr. Igor Zlotnikov, research group leader at the B CUBE — Center for Molecular Bioengineering, who led the study. “Minerals formed by living organisms often exhibit structural and crystallographic characteristics that are far beyond the production capacities offered by current synthetic methods.”
The team focused on L. granifera, a type of algae that uses calcite to form shells. Their spherical shells have a unique crystal architecture. The crystals are aligned radially which means that they spread from the center of the sphere outwards. “The current manufacturing methods of perovskites are not able to produce materials like this synthetically. We can however try to transform the existing natural structures into functional materials while keeping their original architecture,” said Dr. Zlotnikov.
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