, Volume 97, Issue 17, pp 7627-7637
Date: 23 Jun 2013

Comprehensive model of microalgae photosynthesis rate as a function of culture conditions in photobioreactors

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In this paper, the influence of culture conditions (irradiance, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen) on the photosynthesis rate of Scenedesmus almeriensis cultures is analyzed. Short-run experiments were performed to study cell response to variations in culture conditions, which take place in changing environments such as outdoor photobioreactors. Experiments were performed by subjecting diluted samples of cells to different levels of irradiance, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen concentration. Results demonstrate the existence of photoinhibition phenomena at irradiances higher than 1,000 μE/m2 s; in addition to reduced photosynthesis rates at inadequate temperatures or pH—the optimal values being 35 °C and 8, respectively. Moreover, photosynthesis rate reduction at dissolved oxygen concentrations above 20 mg/l is demonstrated. Data have been used to develop an integrated model based on considering the simultaneous influence of irradiance, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen. The model fits the experimental results in the range of culture conditions tested, and it was validated using data obtained by the simultaneous variation of two of the modified variables. Furthermore, the model fits experimental results obtained from an outdoor culture of S. almeriensis performed in an open raceway reactor. Results demonstrate that photosynthetic efficiency is modified as a function of culture conditions, and can be used to determine the proximity of culture conditions to optimal values. Optimal conditions found (T = 35 °C, pH = 8, dissolved oxygen concentration <20 mg/l) allows to maximize the use of light by the cells. The developed model is a powerful tool for the optimal design and management of microalgae-based processes, especially outdoors, where the cultures are subject to daily culture condition variations.