Innovative, groundbreaking water theory is applied to algae

By Luke Geiver | January 30, 2012

The history of Biomat SA, an algae biomass company from South America, is directly linked to University of Washington Professor Gerald Pollack, a man responsible for a water theory breakthrough that implies a fourth phase of water exists beyond liquid, solid and gas. For all of us nonwater theory experts, Pollack put it like this. How come, he said, the humidity in a cloud is 100 percent and the air right next to it is zero? Or, as Pollack also asked during his presentation as the chosen lecturer for the University of Washington’s once-a-year event highlighting the best research of all University work for that calendar year, “Jell-O is 95 percent water, how come when you pick up a piece of Jell-O, the water doesn’t dribble out?”

Pollack’s answer is in his theory that water molecular levels (near the surface of water) are not limited to one to two solid levels as the common belief holds, but rather water is layered in some 2 to 3 million strata and water is not merely ordered by two to three tightly bound surface-level layers and a bunch of random molecules floating in the rest of the body of water. Because water is “layered,” as he said, the tension in the water acts more like a liquid crystal, or a fourth phase—one unlike the liquid, gas and air phases. So in the case of the cloud or the piece of Jell-O, the surface tension commonly thought to be only two to three molecule levels deep actually extends out much wider in a crystal-like structure, and, in the case of Jell-O, allows the water to “stick” to the ingredients like a large crystal infused with coloring and flavoring.

What does Pollack’s water theory have to do with algae? According to the theory, the layering in water occurs because of variances in charges and pH levels at the individual molecule level, all altered by radiant (sun) energy, all of which creates an exclusion zone between the surface of water and the rest of the bulk water. That exclusion zone has different water properties than the surrounding water, essentially creating a separate compartment in the body of water. Biomat has applied this theory to its work in developing shipping container-based algae growth systems.

“We focus on the water, not the algae,” said Miguel Cizin, CEO and co-founder of Biomat. To do that, the Biomat process attempts to induce a form of energy in the water—possibly infrared light—that charges the water to create the exclusion zone compartments, which Cizin said provides an atmosphere that helps algae grow faster and without the need for chemicals.

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