Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 315–318 | Cite as

Microalgae mass culture: the constraints of scaling-up

  • Johan U. Grobbelaar


There is overwhelming evidence that microalgae would be the logical source of oils for biodiesel production, the best option for CO2 sequestration and numerous other applications. However, this apparent lucrative approach is still in its infancy. In order to impact on global energy needs, bioremediation and other potential applications, vast quantities of biomass must be produced at a reliable rate and as cost-effective as possible. When extrapolating volumetric rates from laboratory or small-scale outdoor cultures to large-scale outdoor areal production rates, it becomes apparent that many of the potential claims are either misleading or still only a dream. Open raceway ponds are at present the only feasible culture system for the production of millions of tons of biomass. To date, at best photosynthetic efficiencies of around 1.2% have been achieved, but with present understanding and know-how efficiencies of double that should be achievable, especially when vertical mixing is increased in raceway ponds.


Photosynthetic efficiencies Mixing Scaling-up Open raceway ponds Computational fluid dynamic modelling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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