Updated on 11 May 2012
The next hurdle was to find enzymes that would break the sugars inside seaweeds. Red seaweed has more than 50 percent dry weight as carbohydrate. This is a galacto polymer which needs to be converted to monosaccharides and this is where the company needs the enzymes. For this, the company has recently partnered with Novozymes as these enzymes are not commercial enzymes but research enzymes and need to work in the salt water system.
The company believes that tapping the ocean for fuel, eradicates the problem of land and moreover if the system works in salt water, then need for fresh water will be eliminated too. Therefore, the company at the moment is currently focused on getting enzymes and fermenting strains that would work in salt water.
Sea6 Energy, which was founded in July 2010, was initially funded by Mr Shrikumar and a few IIT Madras alumini who chipped in about $202,044. Later, one of the co-founders managed to get a crucial government grant. IIT Madras incubated the company giving access to running lab space and functional instrumentation. The company has also been awarded BIPP grant and is soon going to sign the agreement. The company has managed to raise $2.02 million and now the aim is to raise another $8.08 million to build demonstration plant.
"When we set out one-and-a-half years ago, we just had ideas. The theory seemed perfect. We have proved those theoretical assumptions and are able to produce ethanol on lab scale. In the next two years, we should be in a position to have cracked the commercial hurdles. We need to set up pilot facilities to demonstrate this. In two years we should reach the benchmarks to make commercially viable biofuel. If we can develop this technology, we can have all land for food and fuel can come from the sea," concludes the chairman.