Algae + Fiber Optics

The left half shows the light profile for a normal plastic rod and the right half for a modified rod. The goal is to have the a flat light profile in the bottom right figure.
(Figure credit: Joseph Sandt)

In my UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) with the Lab for Bioinspired Photonic Engineering, I investigated how low-cost optical fibers can be used to carry and selectively distribute light along its length.

The motivation behind this project is to support large scale algae production by using these fibers to increase a commercial algae farm’s land utilization. Algae grow dense enough to block sunlight from penetrating deeply into the water. These fibers would carry concentrated light from the surface to allow algae to be grown in deeper troughs than, for example, the ones in the image below.

The work was continued by my graduate student mentor, Joseph Sandt, and he wrote about it in Chapter 2 of his doctoral thesis.

Standard algae “raceway” track with paddles for circulation (The Guardian)