, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 708-718,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Feb 2010

Maximum Photosynthetic Yield of Green Microalgae in Photobioreactors


The biomass yield on light energy of Dunaliella tertiolecta and Chlorella sorokiniana was investigated in a 1.25- and 2.15-cm light path panel photobioreactor at constant ingoing photon flux density (930 µmol photons m−2 s−1). At the optimal combination of biomass density and dilution rate, equal biomass yields on light energy were observed for both light paths for both microalgae. The observed biomass yield on light energy appeared to be based on a constant intrinsic biomass yield and a constant maintenance energy requirement per gram biomass. Using the model of Pirt (New Phytol 102:3–37, 1986), a biomass yield on light energy of 0.78 and 0.75 g mol photons−1 and a maintenance requirement of 0.0133 and 0.0068 mol photons g−1 h−1 were found for D. tertiolecta and C. sorokiniana, respectively. The observed yield decreases steeply at low light supply rates, and according to this model, this is related to the increase of the amount of useable light energy diverted to biomass maintenance. With this study, we demonstrated that the observed biomass yield on light in short light path bioreactors at high biomass densities decreases because maintenance requirements are relatively high at these conditions. All our experimental data for the two strains tested could be described by the physiological models of Pirt (New Phytol 102:3–37, 1986). Consequently, for the design of a photobioreactor, we should maintain a relatively high specific light supply rate. A process with high biomass densities and high yields at high light intensities can only be obtained in short light path photobioreactors.