Quick: what do cows and algae have in common? You can milk them both–sort of. L.A.-based OriginOil has developed a technique called LiveExtraction that uses electrical pulses to extract oil from inside of algae without actually killing the algae itself–in other words, OriginOil milks the algae for its oil.
In comparison, other algae fuel companies harvest genetically-engineered algae (and kill it), extract oil, and wait for more algae to grow. But OriginOil’s method allows a single algae cell to produce oil for much longer. saving both time and money.
OriginOil hasn’t completely ditched genetically-engineered algae, though–the company says that it “expects the new Live Extraction process to coexist with our daily ‘destructive’ process to create an even more efficient combined cycle” by removing a small portion of the algae culture daily, refreshing it and in turn removing toxins and leaving space for more algae to grow.
Live Extraction has been proven in the laboratory, and now OriginOil is scaling it up to a 200-gallon tank. In other words, milked algae may be in your gas tank very soon.
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.