Enclosed outdoor photobioreactors need to be developed and designed for large‐scale production of phototrophic microorganisms. Both light regime and photosynthetic efficiency were analyzed in characteristic examples of state‐of‐the‐art pilot‐scale photobioreactors. In this study it is shown that productivity of photobioreactors is determined by the light regime inside the bioreactors. In addition to light regime, oxygen accumulation and shear stress limit productivity in certain designs. In short light‐path systems, high efficiencies, 10% to 20% based on photosynthetic active radiation (PAR 400 to 700 nm), can be reached at high biomass concentrations (>5 kg (dry weight) m−3). It is demonstrated, however, that these and other photobioreactor designs are poorly scalable (maximal unit size 0.1 to 10 m3), and/or not applicable for cultivation of monocultures. This is why a new photobioreactor design is proposed in which light capture is physically separated from photoautotrophic cultivation. This system can possibly be scaled to larger unit sizes, 10 to >100 m3, and the reactor liquid as a whole is mixed and aerated. It is deduced that high photosynthetic efficiencies, 15% on a PAR‐basis, can be achieved. Future designs from optical engineers should be used to collect, concentrate, and transport sunlight, followed by redistribution in a large‐scale photobioreactor. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 81: 193–210, 2003.
Biotechnology and Bioengineering – Wiley
Published: Jan 20, 2003
Keywords: photobioreactor; light regime; photosynthetic efficiency; scale‐up; microalgae; light/dark cycles
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