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Electromagnetism can deter algae pests, firm says

OriginOil, an algae research company, is using low-power electromagnetic pulses to deter invading microbes and improve algae production rates without chemicals.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
OriginOil's illustration of what Algae Screen accomplishes OriginOil

OriginOil has developed a new method for targeting invading microbes that can kill or damage algae ponds, the algae research company said today.

The method, which the Australia-based company plans to offer as a product called Algae Screen, uses low-power electromagnetic pulses to target rotifers, ciliates, and bacteria harmful to algae growth. And the pulses do not harm the algae themselves, according to OriginOil.

The electromagnetic pulses can be tailored to take into account issues such as the type of algae being grown, as well as the salinity and water hardness of an algae pond.

Algae Screen can be used for any type of algae farm but is mainly intended for use in open algae ponds where algae is most vulnerable to microbe invasions, according to OriginOil.

Algae, which can be made into biofuel for cars and trucks, is seen as a good alternative to not just petroleum, but also ethanol. Unlike other biofuel feedstocks, algae is a renewable resource that can potentially offer high yields over small areas of land.

While there has been a marked increase in algae investment and research in recent years, some experts say there is still a long way to go before algae is truly competitive with petroleum.

A number of companies, including agriculture giant Monsanto, are investing in algae research, to improve its scalability.

OriginOil has claimed several breakthroughs in recent months. Most notably in December OriginOil announced it had successfully partnered with MBD Energy to develop processes for converting coal pollution into algae fuel. MBD developed technology for capturing its CO2 pollution with micro-algae which spurs further reproduction of the algae. The algae biomass is then put through a process developed by OriginOil in which the algae can be separated out by water, oil, and algae byproducts over time for easy retrieval. The leftover algae biomass can then be converted into plastics.