Results: Algae Craft

The whirlwind of summer research has come to a close and I can talk about some of the progress we have made. Right up until the last day of research we were adding adjustments to the craft and fixing everything to get it ready to go out onto the York River. The last we week we completed installing the rest of our craft with the substantial supports and safety chains to make sure if the cross pieces came off the poles they would still be fastened to the craft. We implemented a much simpler yet still secure design where we could take the screens off by just unscrewing one screw. Once we finished the adjustments we took out our screens so that we could tow the craft into the river without tearing the screens. We were able to clearly see all the algae that we had grown and note the growth. We were not as concerned about how much algae was growing or what type of algae it was, which would be more of the focus when we started to harvest the algae. We cleared the screens of the algae and secured them to the craft.

On the final day of our research we went back out to VIMS and helped to get the craft out onto the river and secure it to the mooring. The sky was overcast and the weather taking a turn for the unpleasant. Sadly we were not able to place the screens into the water due to the strong current. We didn’t feel like wrestling with 18 feet of screen and choppy waters. I was very pleased to finally get to see where the craft was positioned and what it would look like in its near finished state.

As I have talked about in my earlier posts it was our hope that these adjustments would be done earlier in the summer and we could start working towards collecting the algae and working on a prototype harvester. Sadly we got hung up on other issues, but we were able to start doing a rough planning for the prototype. One simple yet amazing task that we accomplished on the final day is that we found a very simple way to produce a blade for the harvester. Thanks to Will the machinist we were able to bend a slim strip of aluminum into a helix shape by hand. This literally saved hours and hours of design work and immense amounts of money.

Our research now did not yield any concrete results, but set us up on a solid foundation for continuing our work and hopefully working towards a commercial design. Going into the fall semester I hope to continue my work with Dr. Cooke and the algae craft. We will start looking towards making our prototype and look at some harvesting methods and techniques that would optimize growth and yield of the crop.

Our next steps will start creating our prototype, which will consist of the columns holding the blades. The blade will be secured at the top and bottom and rotate using some sort of motor. The water will be pumped out of the column using a basic pump and the algae will be filtered out of the water with some sort of filter mechanism. The blade is the one thing that will take the most trial and error since we want to maximize the cutting efficiency while decreasing any unnecessary resistance. This summer we finally completed the craft and the screens for harvesting, but we were not quite able to reach into the harvesting business. I am pleased with the overall design of the craft, and I am cautiously optimistic about the harvester going forward.


  1. How well do you think this algae craft will hold up in the York River? You had mentioned before that the screens use pvc, will this be able to stand up to the currents found in the river? Also, what are the screens made of? Are you worried about them ripping?