Two Louisiana State University (LSU) faculty members have been awarded a U.S. patent for a miniature self-powered light that has been shown to boost the production of algae. Maria Teresa Gutierrez-Wing, assistant professor of research at LSU AgCenter, and LSU Adjunct Professor Jin-Woo Choi say the devices’ major advantages include:
- Doubling or tripling algae production in the same pond space.
- Lowering overall costs by slashing electricity use.
- Adjustable light wavelengths to increase chlorophyl 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,” Gutierrez-Wing said. “This limits production because the algae beds can only grow so thick. Our lights can be programmed to suspend themselves at different water depths, so the algae can grow in thicker layers.
“Commercial algae ponds are typically around 20 inches deep at the most, so our lights can double or triple production. The numbers could be even higher since pond depth would no longer be limited.”
Conventional artificial lighting systems can account for as much as half of algae production expenses. But Choi and Gutierrez-Wing say their lights sharply cut those costs by harvesting the energy from water movement (via the pumps that circulate the water in algae ponds) for power.
LSU’s Office of Innovation & Ecosystem Development helped the inventors shepherd their invention from concept through the patent process. The two professors have been working on their light design since 2013. They co-founded Envirotronics, a startup housed at LSU Innovation Park, to commercialize their lights, as well as water filters used in aquaculture.
“Inventions like Drs. Gutierrez-Wing and Choi’s self-powered lights open up a world of economic and environmental possibilities. Enabling technological breakthroughs like these to reach the commercial stage is the reason LSU Innovation office was created,” LSU Office of Research and Economic Development Interim Vice President Robert Twilley said.