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Fueling the Skin
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries Magazine
Posted: July 30, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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Algae also communicate with each other—a beneficial element for protection, according to Brooks. “A high cell count allows the algae to communicate. It allows what is happening on the outside to be communicated to the inside.” Therefore, if environmental conditions change where the algae are located, they will adapt as necessary.
Brooks and his team recognized that algae are naturally oily and therefore decided to explore possible uses for the plant’s oil.
While it can take anywhere from 10–160 million years to produce petroleum, algae oil can be produced in a matter of days. “Rather than waiting several millions of years for [algae oil] to naturally occur, [our company is] producing the oil directly and right away,” said Brooks.
The company has found that the most effective and economically responsible process to produce the oil is through biofermentation. The company calls the process phytoponics. “Basically, like hydroponics, the algae is grown in water,” said Brooks. His company has developed a process to produce large quantities of the algae in biofermenters. Through the phytoponic process, a mineral-rich solution is used to grow a small amount of algae in a biofermenter into a large quantity.
According to Brooks, the algae eat carbon in the solution and convert it into the oil. In about five days the algae can be harvested, at which time the oil is extracted and converted to biodiesel or a cosmetic raw material.