Growing Algae With An Arduino


We’ve seen automated grow boxes of all shapes and sizes, but all were for growing plants. [Jared] over at Inventgeek wanted to do something similar for his algae. He started off with an Arduino-based solution that allows the controlled pulse of LEDs connected to his standard bioreactor as a prototype. Once he determined his proof of concept worked, he began work on a design based on the Arduino Pro Mini that has more advanced features such as temperature monitoring and algae culture density monitoring via some fancy IR voodoo. The code is open source and the hardware is easily obtainable, all that remains is the desire to grow algae.

58 thoughts on “Growing Algae With An Arduino

  1. I grow algea all the time, its easy, just take any water feature that you want, set it up and hope it doesnt grow algea. It will quickly start to grow and before you know it you have more algea than you could ever want. Ponds, fish tanks, pools…. all of these seem to grow algea at an alarming rate when you dont want them to.

  2. from his site: “Ironically though the most common question is why are you growing algae? There are a few reasons for this and they range from Biofuels to CO2 Sequestering and even hydrogen production.” Algae is a really interesting plant for various biotech purposes, and a system letting hobbyists play around is a good thing :P

  3. nave.notnilc <<< Agreed. with all the patents and "non disclosure" agreements and competitiveness out there i think any open source platform is worthwhile. i hope he doesn’t get into any trouble.

  4. W O W ! ! ! An arduino based led blinker. That is just so awesome I can hardly contain my excitement. Given nothing but a plain text interface, I will try to convey my excitement through the use of capitalization and excessive spacing, plus the use of not one but three exclamation points.

    How about instead of the “oh I can’t talk about blah blah no disclosure blah blah hahaha” BS, why not just not mention the non disclosure at all. Sounds a lot like bragging!

    btw, does the algae taste lip smacking good?

    sorry, i’m still grumpy my PIC based led blinker didn’t get any lovin a month ago!

  5. I run a bioreactor from home, free biodiesal, free CO2 srubbage and an 700mA PT difference, it aint much but it charges my ipod. No Micropressor, just good old sunlight and solar Sub pumps

  6. @justDIY Fuck you. The Arduino provides an excellent prototyping platform, and lets people performs experiments like this very easily and opens up this kind of thing to many people.

  7. MCmasterP- “Theortical” using a high lipid producing algae the best you can hope for is 10 liters of oil per square meter of surface area. Which doesnt sound like much, but it is much higher than soy or other traditional oil plants. The major issue is releasing the oil from the cells, which as far as I know takes more energy to produce than is contained in the oil. However I’m sure that clever people like you guys will figure it out someday.

  8. I was interested in building a proper Bioreactor controller utilizing an Arduino or other small form factor board. Anyone interested in collaborating please email me at bioreactorrob @ mailinator d o t c o m (I don’t want spam, can you tell?) I will respond from my real email address. Or you can reply here.

  9. @raizap”Fuck you. The Arduino provides an excellent prototyping platform”
    Actually Fuck you.
    It such a great platfom if you cant manage to connect 2 transistors for occilator or 555 timer… Juct give up if you cant do it normal way

  10. @therian

    When people are making these projects, their goal is NOT to do accomplish it in the simplest way. That would be better, but people want to get the job done as QUICK as possible. The guy who made this may not want to spend an hour figuring out all the 555 crap. Plus, once you are done, what if you want to change the frequency or something?

    It is just so much faster to put some wires from an arduino and spend 5 minutes coding something.

  11. i would rather push a button… and then how do you measure to make sure your getting the exact ms values you want? 555 timer my ass for a project like this. the author did it right. all this anti arduino makes me feel like im talkintg to my father in law…. of course he knows best because back in the day when he had to solder in blinding snow storms with a paperclip and a lighter….. wah wah wah… give it a rest.

  12. @therian : please explain what is the “normal way”. Oh and also, how come we haven’t seen one of your brilliant 555 projects yet ? This would prove once and for all how Arduinos suck and how you’re a genius.

    You may have noticed, if you actually read the article (but I’m sure you have, you wouldn’t criticize without having done so, would you ?), that it’s not just a blinker. It has a few more features I challenge you to reproduce with a 555 alone.

  13. @therian So in your world, everyone who wants to experiment and try out their concept must have an infinite number of resistors and capacitors able to represent every single possible capacitance and resistance value ever conceived available on immediate on hand supply, and every time they want to try out a new frequency, must re-calculate what resistors and caps they’ll need, find and select those components, and figure out how to connect the new RC network up again?

    Your world fucking sucks, and closes off experimenting to 99.9% of the world.

    Whereas using an Arduino lets you take less than a second to simply type in the exact frequency you want any time you want to change it, and lets you do oh so much more, and opens up the world of hacking to anyone.

    So no, fuck you therian, fuck you.

  14. @Haku The Arduino is becoming more popular in the hacking world every day, so of course more and more hacks that get published will be using them.

    I say the more Arduino projects, the better. As more people get exposed to hacking due to the Arduino, the more creative stuff we’ll see as more people start hacking who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

    Disregarding a hack simply because it uses an Arduino and you want to maintain some sort of non-Arduino quota/ratio is fucking stupid, and will mean less and less cool hacks will be seen here as more and more people use the Arduino for their hacks.

  15. Isn’t the point of bio fuels to convert *sunlight* into oil? Using artificial lighting is tantamount to converting electricity into oil. Interesting but useless. He needs to start experimenting with the real energy source … the sun. Filters can accommodate any needed spectral limits.

  16. why are the leds blinking?

    a) because photosynthesis works better in pulsed light conditions (kind of like interval training for muscles)
    b) “pulsed reactor” sounds better.
    c) that’s what you do with an arduino.
    d) b and c
    unfortunately, if the answer was a) the author doesn’t mention that on his site.

  17. @Alan – YOUR AN IDIOT! one solar cycle means one doubling of biomass. using a strobe technique allows for 4-8 doublings of biomass in a day. this is ues in addation to normal solar methods. read, learn, listen. ignorance is your bliss obviously.

  18. “please explain what is the “normal way”.”
    I will quote my professor:

    every one can build item for 20$ but engineer can do this for 2$

    @riazap “So in your world, everyone who wants to experiment and try out their concept must have an infinite number of resistors and capacitors able to represent every single possible capacitance and resistance value ever conceived available on immediate on hand supply”
    potentiometer & varicap, probably this is mysterious words for you. And yes if you want to build electronics you must have parts.

    “Your world fucking sucks, and closes off experimenting to 99.9% of the world.”
    at least my word is real word, that how things done in industry, no one use PC for led blinking.

    @riazap “So no, fuck you therian, fuck you.”

    (Y) go ahead masturbate on my harry ass, faggot

  19. @therian and how are you supposed to tune a RC circuit to a precise frequency with no error given that it’s analog? Also, varicaps are hard to find, especially in any range you can possibly conceive. Much better to instantly get the desired result with an Arduino, and doesn’t place such arcane and unreasonable requirements on people who want to experiment.

    Also, not every who wants to hack is an engineer (nor should they fucking have to be). You want keep hacking only in the realm of an elite few who live in ivory towers. By any chance, are you a worshiper of Ayn Rand?

  20. Is it just me… or did thermions credibility just go down significantly? Are you serious!! A potentiometer & varicap?!! There is nothing user friendly about that as a user interface in any way. But… well… I guess you’re an old school engineer so fuck usability! You dinosaurs are stifling creativity and mass availability of experimental platforms. You are sad! Very sad indeed! Take your blind job security and shove it! This is the real world. Entrepreneur and inventors rule this world. Drones like you who can’t create and invent just find cheaper ways to make our ideas happen. I pity you.

  21. I think a lot of these “Arduino sucks!” and “fuck you!” posts by simply changing the main title of future submissions from Arduino/PIC/Picaxe etc. to simply “Microcontroller”, which essentially means you could copy the project using your favourite microcontroller and not start having negative views on the project just because they used a certain microcontroller which you don’t like.

  22. Well, I’m an engineer and inventor that doesn’t use arduinos. I like designing and building my own hardware. That said, I have absolutely nothing against them. I see them opening the door to experimenting and hacking to people who don’t know how to build hardware or just don’t want to do so because of time or whatever reason. In fact I have taken ideas I like (implemented in arduinos) and redesigned them into my own hardware and software.

    I like using PICs and Freescale chips, but I don’t force them on anyone. And to the poster therian and others: chill guys. I have fond memories of the 555 and in fact I have a lot of them (to me they are “collector” items now). Haven’t used the things in years. I rather use a 30 cent PIC. It is easier, cheaper, you use less board space (less parts), and get more accuracy and flexibility to boot, plus the benefit of software correction. As an engineer, I’ll embrace whatever makes my work easier, cheaper and better.

  23. I agree with Haku. If you think you are “elite”, then grab the idea and implement it on your chip of choice. Design your own electronics and write your own software and stop complaining about other people’s choice of parts.

  24. I dont want to here anymore BullS.. like – arduino open doors to …. No it doesn’t, it open doors for what ? blinking led and making annoying noises? what you will do when face real problem, how arduino will help you if you know nothing about electronics? It exactly same as using TI89 yes it will help you pass all math in HS it will help you on regents and SAT if you manage to hide it but when you start college what you will do ? no calculator allowed. Fail first semester or learh all HS math during couple month ? this is exacly “help” arduino give you, just waiting you time falling back instead learning the right way.

    >>”and how are you supposed to tune a RC circuit to a precise frequency with no error given that it’s analog?”
    first it dosnt apply to given problem,
    And yes you should have TOOLS frequency counter, frequency generator, oscilloscope, Vector network analyzer, spectrum analyzer and more. yes they come in time they expensive but without there is no serious point trying, take electronics seriously, respect it, read real books not comics.
    there is no other way if you want succeed instead being made fun of

  25. Same sad story happen with programming, some programmers stop caring about their code speed and size relaying on “help” of faster
    hardware. But we all hate Vista do we ? That why a lot of today’s programs doing exactly same thing as other programs 10 years ago manage to do in exact same speed on such low hardware, why ? because programmers took optimization seriously back then. You cant always relay on some “help” it only putting you behind more and more.

  26. @anders “You dinosaurs are stifling creativity and mass availability of experimental platforms. You are sad! Very sad indeed!”

    The truth is opposite. Most arduino “hackers”/”experimenters” produce nothing more than inefficient ways to do something people was able to do half century ago. What new they create having such advance todays technology ? Why instead of thinking about new ways to invent something new what have not done before they blinking leds… Hy heart squeezing every time I see such available privileges of having technology and such ignorance and people finding all kinds of ways just not to learn

  27. @therian : it’s not “the industry”, it’s some guy posting his experiment on the Internet, so cost is not the only factor, but also development time and adaptability. But even admitting it is the case, do you know how much costs a potentiometer, or a varicap ? And how much costs a low-end microcontroller ? In many cases, the µC solution is the cheapest. Not to mention variability and aging. And from an industry point of view last minutes fixes in the software cost much less than a board modification. Your professor was right but I bet you’re not an engineer yet.

    You continue by saying that a $20 Arduino is too expensive, but he should tune his 555 timer using “frequency counter, frequency generator, oscilloscope, Vector network analyzer, spectrum analyzer” … What The Fuck man you’re out of your mind.

    You also seem to be missing the point of the article. He did not invent a LED blinker. He invented an algae reactor. The way the LEDs flash is largely irrelevant. In this case the Arduino just enabled a faster development of his idea.

  28. for all of you who obviously dont get it let me make it clearer in a fast and eazy way
    1. not any algae will do it @growing it in ponds and pools definitively not the point
    2.the sun dosnt always shine so using electical light is still a valid idea BUT to make it a green tech you need to combine it with solar pannels from wich you get the electricity from else you just convert electricity into biomass whatever you want to use that for (gasification,fermentation,food supplement,biodiesel…..)
    3.what most of the “whynot use a 555 circuit” people dont realize is that the author is trying to recreate the flasing light effekt (now go and google that you igorants nerds) and to do that you need to be able to change light intensity flash length and dark period ist not just blinking on and off (now go ahead and design a 555 circuit wich does that is it still simpler than using an arduino????)
    4. if you have no idea on the subject at hand STFU!!!!

  29. @therian: So you think I’m giving you BS by saying that it opens doors for other people to experiment?
    What a narrow minded person you are. Sure, plenty of chaff out there, but there are also good ideas too. How they get about implementing them?, there are many ways to skin a cat. And I’m talking in general, not regarding this project, just your attack on the choice of platform.

    I like photography as a hobby. Started with a point and shoot, and moved up to a digital SLR. I did learn a bit about photography along the way thanks to some books and photographer friends (professionals) I did buy a few lenses, but nothing expensive. I do take good pictures, some “pro” quality, according to my friends. Do I want to be a photographer? no. It’s just a hobby. Do I want to spend a lot of money on better lenses? Perhaps some day, but I’m happy with the results I get with my current tools. If I wanted to be a professional photographer, then I would go to a school and buy professional cameras and accessories. Let hobbyists be hobbyists. They came up with good ideas sometimes. They don’t have to be engineers if they don’t want to.

  30. I think JB has the right idea. He is a professional (probably would make a nifty 555 circuit instead of this thing), but he respects other people’s choices of using other methods.

    Theridan looks to be an “old timer”, pissed off that someone can accomplish the same thing in 10 minutes that took him years to get a degree or something. You know that statement about the TI-89? What do you think happened when people first switched from slide rule to calculator? I bet many “old timers” were closed-minded and said said the same thing theridan does.

  31. Im not old timer, Im student myself, but I do count bits and bytes same goes for electronics.

    the point was that as cheating with TI89 will give you great start but then sink you to the bottom because you skip all math newer learn it, Arduino basically do same for most people, they seems newer to pass blinking led stage, the reason is instead of learning basics analog then basics, digital logic and then uC they jump ahead but only for bit of time because even with all power of this platform they cant really use it.

    And posting such “hacks” is narcissistic, they no use to anyone, I don’t post how I paint ceiling or made power supply because it in the books and doesn’t worth anyone attention. Same goes for all LED blinkers and Buzzerz hacks, they don’t woth attention, don’t be such self proud, it not achievement. I was quit for couple year but now when more than 50% of hack like this I cant keep it quit anymore, my favorite site full of trash

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