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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Algae Blooms Can Be Toxic To Humans And Aquatic Life–They Are Also An Energy Source

Dr. Kevin Shurtleff, a tenured professor at Utah Valley University, has developed a prototype of a system that will remove algae from water during an algal bloom and then convert it to energy. While the energy produced cannot financially support the operation, there are reasons governments would pay to remove the algae.

Public safety and environmental benefits may justify paying to have the algae removed. Once removed, it can be converted to energy.

Kevin is looking for partners to commercialize the idea.

Interview with Kevin Shurtleff, the Associate Professor of Utah Valley University.

We’ll be discussing Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms with Kevin Shurtleff.

How are you personally affected by Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms?

As a resident of Utah County for 28 years, I’ve water skied, canoed, and fished on Utah Lake. It is a beautiful, natural resource that has been degraded over time by bigger and longer algal blooms during the summer. The algae harvesting technology my students and I developed can prevent or reduce the worst algal blooms, returning Utah Lake to a more pristine state, increasing its recreational value.

What is your take on Harvesting of algae to prevent or reduce harmful algal blooms?

We’ve demonstrated the algae harvesting technologies with laboratory scale equipment and processes. We use microalgae (cyanobacteria) we’ve grown in the greenhouse on campus when there isn’t an algal bloom on Utah Lake. Last summer, we also harvested algae directly from the harbor at Utah Lake State Park. We are now seeking funding to build a full-scale, 30 ft  long x 10 foot wide, algae harvesting barge. It will process 1800 gallons per minute removing most of the algae and returning cleaner water to the lake. We hope to be operational by next spring. We will use satellite imagery to target the worst algal blooms on the lake. In a targeted area, we will harvest algae throughout the spring and summer to prevent an algal bloom later in the summer. I would like to use the harvested algae to produce electricity using gasification. Eventually, I would like to power the algae harvesting barge using the algae we harvest with an on-board gasifier/engine/generator system.

More about Utah Valley University:

Twitter: @uvu



College of Science, Chemistry Department

Kevin Shurtleff

Kevin Shurtleff’s bio:

Twitter: @jkshurt


Instagram: @kevinshurtleff

Dr. Shurtleff received a PhD in physical chemistry from Brigham Young University and a Masters of Business Administration from the Marriott School. He is an associate professor of chemistry at Utah Valley University. He has been teaching and doing research at UVU for the past 7 years. In that time, he has mentored over 70 students as they performed research on recycling used motor oil, renewable, wind, solar, and river compressed air electricity generation, microalgae harvesting, and clean air technologies. For the past two years, his research has focused on developing algae harvesting technologies to prevent harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Utah Lake and beyond. Before UVU, he spent 25 years in industry, taking technologies from the laboratory into the marketplace. He has been working in the energy field for the past 20 years. Dr. Shurtleff is a serial entrepreneur. He has started five companies based on technologies he developed: MicromistNOW – fast micromist products, Mountain West Energy – enhanced oil recovery, Trulite, Inc. – powdered source of hydrogen fuel, Synexus, Inc. – portable, integrated fuel cell system, and Peak Semiconductor – gallium arsenide crystal growth. He is married to a UVU professor. He has 7 adult children and 8 grandchildren.

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