Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 89, Issue 5, pp 1275–1288 | Cite as

Light requirements in microalgal photobioreactors: an overview of biophotonic aspects

  • Ana P. Carvalho
  • Susana O. Silva
  • José M. Baptista
  • F. Xavier Malcata


In order to enhance microalgal growth in photobioreactors (PBRs), light requirement is one of the most important parameters to be addressed; light should indeed be provided at the appropriate intensity, duration, and wavelength. Excessive intensity may lead to photo-oxidation and -inhibition, whereas low light levels will become growth-limiting. The constraint of light saturation may be overcome via either of two approaches: increasing photosynthetic efficiency by genetic engineering, aimed at changing the chlorophyll antenna size; or increasing flux tolerance, via tailoring the photonic spectrum, coupled with its intensity and temporal characteristics. These approaches will allow an increased control over the illumination features, leading to maximization of microalgal biomass and metabolite productivity. This minireview briefly introduces the nature of light, and describes its harvesting and transformation by microalgae, as well as its metabolic effects under excessively low or high supply. Optimization of the photosynthetic efficiency is discussed under the two approaches referred to above; the selection of light sources, coupled with recent improvements in light handling by PBRs, are chronologically reviewed and critically compared.


Flashing light effect Microalgae Photosynthesis Photobioreactor Photo-inhibition Photo-oxidation 



Financial support for author Carvalho via a postdoctoral fellowship (SFRH/BPD/26424/2006), funded by POCI 2010 (Portugal) with the support of FSE (Social European Found) and under the supervision of author Malcata, is hereby gratefully acknowledged. This work received partial financial support via projects OPTIC-ALGAE (PTDC/BIO/71710/2006) and MICROPHYTE: (PTDC/EBB-EBI/102728/2008), funded also by POCI 2010 with the support of FSE and both under the coordination of author Malcata. The access to electronic databases and literature references made available by CBQF should be formally quoted here.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana P. Carvalho
    • 1
  • Susana O. Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • José M. Baptista
    • 2
    • 3
  • F. Xavier Malcata
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.CBQF/Escola Superior de BiotecnologiaUniversidade Católica PortuguesaPortoPortugal
  2. 2.INESC PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Centro de Competência de Ciências Exactas e de EngenhariaUniversidade da MadeiraFunchalPortugal
  4. 4.ISMAI–Instituto Superior da MaiaAvioso S. PedroPortugal
  5. 5.Instituto de Tecnologia Química e BiológicaUniversidade Nova de LisboaOeirasPortugal

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