A solar seaweed dryer
- DESIGN APPROACH -
Using solar thermal energy : Saves energy cost and increases flexibility
Light and modular equipment : Deployable near the harvesting site, sparing transportation costs
Bio-inspired structures : Optimizes solar radiation management and air treatment for efficient drying
We are currently developing our first product : A dryer that relies on solar thermal energy and bio-inspired features to effectively and quickly dry seaweed, while preserving the key organoleptic properties.
Our aim is to provide a drying solution that can be implemented directly on the harvesting site and suited to the needs of emerging seaweed farming companies, more sensitive to sustainability challenges.
- INDUSTRIAL CONTEXT -
The growth of global seaweed biomass production
Seaweed is a promising green feedstock that doesn't require freshwater or land surface to be cultivated. It is currently mainly exploited for food and hydrocolloids. Over the last 5 years seaweed production has dramatically increased because of the growing demand of western countries. Indeed, the European production alone is projected to reach 8Mt by the end of the decade.
However, handling fresh seaweed is tricky and key bottlenecks remain to be solved to reach the full potential of this resource in a sustainable way.
Optimizing the drying process
Upon harvest, fresh seaweed needs to be dehydrated in the next 24h-48h to prevent spoilage. We identified this step of the supply chain as the one with the most leverage potential.
Current drying methods are either rudimental and non-consistent or relying on existing bulky and energy consuming industrial dryers.
This animal is living mostly in arid environments, thus having to spare every single drop of water it can. To retain as much liquid as possible, camel nasal cavities have evolved convoluted, cooled, hygroscopic surface that enhance condensation of moisture when air passes through.
Reproducing this feature will increase macroscopic water condensation of the air stream, a first dehumidification step.
To remain hidden, this insect can passively change the colour of its elytra from yellow to black under high humidity levels. This is made possible by the micro-scale 3D chitin filament network of its cuticle that adsorbs humidity.
Emulating this material as a microporous dehumidifier membrane will further dehumidify the air stream.
Moths need to avoid any unwanted reflection of light and detection from predators. Thus, their eyes display an anti-reflective coating consisting of nanoscale dome structures smaller than the wavelength of visible light acting as a region of graded refractive index between the ambient medium and the interface.
This pattern inspired an anti-reflective coating that maximizes the solar radiation absorption and thus solar heating.
An innovation aimed for durability
Our seaweed dryer offers a low-cost and user-friendly biomass drying technology, easy to implement anywhere, promoting food security for coastal communities relying on marine natural resources.
Our drying units can be combined to match any scale of seaweed production, enabling us to enlarge our customer segments. Drylgae will favor the democratization of seaweed as a sustainable primary resource in many sectors such as bio-fuels or bio-plastics. Because of the energy efficiency of our concept, prices of processed seaweeds is going to decrease, making it a more affordable primary resource.
By solely relying on renewable solar energy, the environmental impact of our system is reduced compared to other existing technologies. The simplicity of our solution allows it to be implemented close to seaweed farms, solving the logistical challenge of transporting tons of wet seaweed with heavy machinery. CO₂ emissions due to transportation are reduced.