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Comparison of compact photobioreactors for large-scale monoculture of microalgae

February 25th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Cultivation, Algae-Photobioreactor

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Comparative evaluation of compact photobioreactors for large-scale monoculture of microalgae

Asterio Sa´nchez Miro´n, Antonio Contreras Go´mez,
Francisco Garcý´a Camacho, Emilio Molina Grima, Yusuf Chisti *
Department of Chemical Engineering, Uni6ersity of Almerý´a, E- 04071 Almerý´a, Spain

Journal of Biotechnology, 70, (1999)

Received 27 October 1998; received in revised form 17 November 1998; accepted 22 December 1998


Engineering analyses combined with experimental observations in horizontal tubular photobioreactors and vertical bubble columns are used to demonstrate the potential of pneumatically mixed vertical devices for large-scale outdoor culture of photosynthetic microorganisms. Whereas the horizontal tubular systems have been extensively investigated,
their scalability is limited. Horizontal tubular photobioreactors and vertical bubble column type units differ substantially in many ways, particularly with respect to the surface–to–volume ratio, the amount of gas in dispersion, the gas–liquid mass transfer characteristics, the nature of the fluid movement and the internal irradiance levels. As illustrated for eicosapentaenoic acid production from the microalga Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a realistic commercial process cannot rely on horizontal tubular photobioreactor technology. In bubble columns, presence of gas bubbles generally enhances internal irradiance when the Sun is low on the horizon. Near solar noon, the bubbles diminish the internal column irradiance relative to the ungassed state. The optimal dimensions of vertical column photobioreactors are about 0.2 m diameter and 4 m column height. Parallel east–west oriented rows of such columns located at 36.8°N latitude need an optimal inter-row spacing of about 3.5 m. In vertical columns the biomass productivity varies substantially during the year: the peak productivity during summer may be several times greater than in the winter. This seasonal variation occurs also in horizontal tubular units, but is much less pronounced. Under identical conditions, the volumetric biomass productivity in a bubble column is 60% of that in a 0.06 m diameter horizontal tubular loop, but there is substantial scope for raising this value.

Keywords : Microalgae; Photobioreactors; Scale-up; Photosynthetic culture; Eicosapentaenoic acid; Phaeodactylum tricornutum

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About Oilgae – Oilgae – Oil & Biodiesel from Algae has a focus on biodiesel production from algae while also discussing alternative energy in general. Algae present an exciting possibility as a feedstock for biodiesel, and when you realise that oil was originally formed from algae – among other related plants – you think “Hey! Why not oil again from algae!”

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