Solazyme receives funding to expand

By Bryan Sims | August 08, 2008
San Francisco-based Solazyme Inc. has raised $45.4 million in Series C funding to forward its expansion and growth toward producing biodiesel made from algae oil on a commercial scale. Investors in this round of funding include Braemar Energy Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Harris & Harris Group.

Solazyme, one of the oldest and innovative algae oil companies, creates its proprietary algae strains by identifying species that grow by feeding off sugars in the absence of light as opposed to growing algae in ponds or in bioreactors through means of photosynthesis.

The company puts algae and discarded plant matter into kettles and brews up algal blooms. The algae are then harvested for oil. Solazyme also genetically optimizes the natural strains of algae.

By eliminating the need for water, Solazyme doesn't have to separate the algae from the water to harvest oil and can control the growth of algae. The company initially attempted to grow algae through photosynthesis but switched to the aforementioned platform.

Earlier this year, Solazyme entered into a biodiesel feedstock development and testing agreement with Chevron USA Inc., a major oil company, to accelerate the commercialization of its proprietary technology of converting algae oil to biodiesel.

Other players delving into innovative algae extraction and/or growing techniques for algae oil for use in biodiesel production include OriginOil and Synthetic Genomics. OriginOil has developed a system that will force feed algae and then extract oil from the microorganisms with microwaves. Meanwhile, Synthetic Genomics is developing genetically modified algae that will innately clean up their own.
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