Seaweed and Algae Startup

Swedish Algae Startup Wins the Jackpot

Swedish Algae Factory has been named the 2019 winner of the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge.

A €1M pot of prizes was handed out to innovative companies tackling major environmental problems at a ceremony in Amsterdam this week. And Swedish Algae Factory walked away the winner – and €500k richer – for its work in cultivating algae called diatoms, found in ‘cold and dark seas’. It sells their ‘high-tech silica shells’ as a sustainable alternative material to harmful chemicals used in solar cells and personal care products.

CEO Sofie Allert said: “We are so happy and honoured to win this prize. This win helps us reach more personal care and solar clients and increase our production capacity faster. Algica reduces CO2 with 200 tons/kg per year when applied on solar panels and replaces harmful and less efficient ingredients in personal care. Algica is contributing towards a more circular and bio-based industry.

More on the properties and origin of the material

The algae-based silica material with unique and powerful properties developed by nature.

  • Cleanses the skin by absorption of impurities, sweat and bacteria
  • Efficient carrier material that enables efficient uptake of vitamins and nutrients by the skin
  • Improved moisture retention by its ability to bind water, similar to hyaluronic acid
  • A future natural, non-toxic and environmentally friendly UV filter
  • COSMOS Certified Organic
  • Transparent on the skin
  • Completely odor-free
  • The dry form is long-lasting and does not require preservatives
  • Rheology modifying properties
  • The material also shows promise for anti-pollution (currently testing)
  • It is available as a dry powder and as a water-based cream. The dry material is preferable for oil-based formulations and serums, while the cream is easy to formulate into lotions and face masks

The algae’s unique porous shell has evolved for millions of years to ensure survival. The shell is naturally designed for uptake and release of chemical substances such as nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The abundance of hydroxyl groups, comparable to hyaluronic acid, also helps the algae to efficiently regulate moisture and water levels.

Algica solves the two major skin care issues: moisturizing and cleansing. These shell’s natural traits can be utilized in moisturizing creams to boost the delivery of active ingredients such as vitamins and minerals to the skin. The remarkable absorptive properties are valuable in cleansing face masks, for efficient uptake of sweat, bacteria and other impurities from the skin.

Additionally, the material efficiently blocks harmful UV light. This has been confirmed in scientific studies by our team and other scientists, including a publication in the elite journal Nature. We are conducting tests to approve this algae material by the EU as an environmentally friendly UV-filter for use in sunscreen.

Diatom shells originate from the sea and are thereby completely safe for oceans and sea life. It is of great importance today to protect our fragile oceans from harmful and unnatural chemical substances that endanger life in the oceans.

Nanoporous Material

The algae-based silica material with unique light manipulating properties, with the potential to boost solar panel efficiency with at least 4 %.

Our material’s nanoporous design

Our material is the nanoporous silica shell of a microscopic algal group called diatoms. The scientific name of diatom shells is “diatom frustules”.

Diatom frustules consist of pure silica with hydroxyl groups on the surface. They have a transparent nanoporous structure with several layers of regular pores in decreasing size creating a funnel structure.

This inorganic material has evolved to efficiently down-convert light, trap visible light and block UV radiation in order to protect the diatom cell and improve the photosynthetic capacity.

Our material can be added to the encapsulant or in a coating on the glass of the solar panel. A low coating coverage of the material resulted in a 3-4 % solar panel efficiency enhancement in indicative flash tests.

These results have been verified by an independent Swedish research institute (RISE) and in tests with potential customers.

Furthermore, blocking the UV radiation can reduce degradation of solar panels over time. By adding higher concentrations of the material and taking the UV radiation blocking effect into account, efficiency gains of 10 % should be expected based on the science of diatom frustules’ interaction with light.

Our material is as an inert, inorganic silica material with proven durability over hundreds of years. The small differences in particle size do not affect the size of the pores.

The pore sizes depend on the diatom species used but within a single species, the pores are regular. We have chosen to cultivate a type of diatoms that have a pore structure suitable for solar panel efficiency enhancement.

Diatom shells originate from the sea and are thereby completely safe for oceans and sea life. It is of great importance today to protect our fragile oceans from harmful and unnatural chemical substances that endanger life in the oceans.

About Swedish Algae Factory

Swedish Algae Factory was founded 2016 based on years of research on the unique shell structure of diatoms.

Our research team has over 100 years’ combined experience in diatom research and engineering and is led by our cofounder, Professor Angela Wulff. Professor Wulff, as part of her research at Gothenburg University, collaborates with world-renowned physicists and biologists.

Our backers include the Swedish Energy Agency, EU LIFE and a former president of Akzo Nobel, Jan Svärd.

Swedish Algae Factory is the only large-scale producer of diatom frustules globally. We have patents pending for the cultivation method and our main applications of the material.

We cultivate diatoms with the best proven performance and durability, in a cost efficient and resource efficient production process.

Today we produce our material in Kungshamn on the Swedish West Coast and will during 2020 scale up our production to meet customer demand.

swedish factory award algae material


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