Proterro receives patent on unique photobioreactor

By Susanne Retka Schill | February 19, 2014

Proterro Inc.’s latest patent is on its way to being finalized. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a notice of allowance to Proterro for a device patent covering the company’s proprietary photobioreactor. The new patent builds upon one awarded a year ago for another segment of the company’s technology.

Proterro is developing a sugar-making technology utilizing its patented, transgenetic cyanobacteria that produces fermentation-ready sucrose. The newly patented photobioreactor is made from off-the-shelf plastic components. The system mimics nature in that the cyanobacteria are grown on a fabric surface analogous to a leaf, with water flowing over the surface, to deliver nutrients and carry away the sugar in solution. The fabric is encased in a plastic, air-filled balloon enriched with carbon dioxide.   

“The [patent] claims describe a photobioreactor that includes a non-horizontal, solid cultivation support and a physical barrier over the cultivation support,” explained Proterro CEO Kef Kasdin. “They also describe integration of systems for optimizing light, water supply and sugar collection.”

Proterro is collecting data from its pilot facility in Orlando, Fla., that includes four full-sized reactors. The company has completed a preliminary design, layout and associated cost estimate for a demonstration-scale plant and is currently seeking a demonstration partner.