Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 12, pp 5645–5655 | Cite as

Assessment of key biological and engineering design parameters for production of Chlorella zofingiensis (Chlorophyceae) in outdoor photobioreactors

  • Peter E. Zemke
  • Milton R. Sommerfeld
  • Qiang Hu
Bioenergy and biofuels


For the design of a large field of vertical flat plate photobioreactors (PBRs), the effect of four design parameters—initial biomass concentration, optical path length, spacing, and orientation of PBRs—on the biochemical composition and productivity of Chlorella zofingiensis was investigated. A two-stage batch process was assumed in which inoculum is generated under nitrogen-sufficient conditions, followed by accumulation of lipids and carbohydrates in nitrogen-deplete conditions. For nitrogen-deplete conditions, productivity was the most sensitive to initial biomass concentration, as it affects the light availability to individual cells in the culture. An initial areal cell concentration of 50 g m−2 inoculated into 3.8-cm optical path PBR resulted in the maximum production of lipids (2.42 ± 0.02 g m−2 day−1) and carbohydrates (3.23 ± 0.21 g m−2 day−1). Productivity was less sensitive to optical path length. Optical path lengths of 4.8 and 8.4 cm resulted in similar areal productivities (biomass, carbohydrate, and lipid) that were 20 % higher than a 2.4-cm optical path length. Under nitrogen-sufficient conditions, biomass productivity was 48 % higher in PBRs facing north–south during the winter compared to east–west, but orientation had little influence on biomass productivity during the spring and summer despite large differences in insolation. An optimal spacing could not be determined based on growth alone because a tradeoff was observed in which volumetric and PBR productivity increased as space between PBRs increased, but land productivity decreased.


Biochemical composition Chlorella zofingiensis Flat plate photobioreactor Photobioreactor orientation Optical path length Initial concentration 



This work was supported in part through funds from Science Foundation Arizona (award no. SRG 0438-09) and the Department of Energy’s funded Sustainable Algal Biofuels Consortium (award no. DE-EE0003372).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Algae Research and BiotechnologyCollege of Technology and Innovation Arizona State UniversityMesaUSA

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