The challenge confronting industrial microagriculture: high photosynthetic efficiency in large-scale reactors

  • Amos Richmond
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 41)


The past few years have seen a burst of activity concerning the production of microalgae for commercial purposes. From a modest beginning of chlorella tablets in Japan in the late 1950s, new endeavors that aim to produce health food, food additives, fertilizers and an assortment of natural products emerged as specialized industries the world over (Schlender, 1986). So far, three algal species have attracted the major commercial interest: Chlorella, Spirulina and Dunaliella. The interest in Chlorella is mainly confined to Japan and Taiwan where the products are chlorella tablets (regarded as health food) as well as a “chlorella growth factor” which is said to improve growth in lactic acid bacteria. Spirulina is commercially cultivated today the world over, total annual production in dry biomass is less than 1000 tonnes. Spirulina products in form of pills and spray-dried powder, for the health-food market are produced in Mexico, Taiwan, the USA, Thailand, Brazil, Japan and Israel.

Key words

Spirulina Chlorella Dunaliella Chlamydomonas microalgae mass cultures reactor design 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Cardenas, A. & A. Markovits, 1986. Mixing and power characteristics of a mixing board device in shallow ponds. Appl. Phycol. Forum 2 (3): 1 - 4.Google Scholar
  2. Cohen, Z., 1986. Products from microalgae. In A. Richmond (ed.), Microalgal Mass Culture. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL: 421 - 454.Google Scholar
  3. Collins, C. D. & C. W. Boylen, 1982. Physiological responses of Anabaena variabilis to instantaneous exposure to various combinations of light intensity and temperature. J. Phycol. 18: 206 – 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Goldman, J. C., 1979. Outdoor algal mass cultures. II. Photosynthetic yield limitations. Water Res. 13: 119–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Grobbelaar, J. U. & C. J. Soeder, 1985. Respiration losses in planktonic green algae cultivated in raceway ponds. J. Plankton Res. 7: 497 – 506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Harris, G. P. & B. B. Piccinin, 1983. Phosphorus limitation and carbon metabolism in a unicellular alga: interactions between growth rate and the measurement of net and gross photosynthesis. J. Physiol. 19: 185 – 192.Google Scholar
  7. Heatherly, M., 1986. Kirkland company to test cyanotech product. J. Am. Business, June 11.Google Scholar
  8. Lee, Y. K. & S. J. Pirt, 1981. Energetics of photosynthetic algal growth: Influence of intermittent illumination in short (40 s) cycles. J. gen. Microbiol. 124: 43–52.Google Scholar
  9. Lee, Y. K., H. M. Tan & C. S. Hew, 198 5. The effect of growth temperature on the bioenergetics of photosynthetic algal cultures. Biotech. Bioeng. 27: 555–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lee, Y. K., 1986. Enclosed bioreactors for the mass cultivation of photosynthetic microorganisms: the future trend. Trends Biotech. 4: 186 – 189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Pirt, S. J., Y. K. Lee, A. Richmond & M. W. Pirt, 1980. The photosynthetic efficiency of Chlorella biomass growth with reference to solar energy utilization. J. chem. Tech. Biotech– nol. 30: 25–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pirt, S. J., Y. K. Lee, M. R. Walach, M. W. Pirt, H. H. M. Balyuzi & M. J. Bazin, 1983. A tubular bioreactor for photosynthetic production of biomass from carbon dioxide: design and performance. J. chem. Tech. Biotechnol. 33B: 35–58.Google Scholar
  13. Pirt, S. J., 1986. Tansley review no. 4. The thermodynamic efficiency (quantum demand) and dynamics of photosynthetic growth. New Phytol. 102: 3–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Richmond, A. & A. Vonshak, 1978. Spirulina culture in Israel. Arch. Hydrobiol. Beih. Erg. Limnol. 11: 274–279.Google Scholar
  15. Richmond, A., 1983. Phototrophic microalgae. In H. J. Rehm & G. Reed (eds), Biotechnology. Verlag Chemie, Weinheim 3: 109 – 143.Google Scholar
  16. Richmond, A., 1986. Outdoor mass cultures of microalgae. In A. Richmond (ed.), Microalgal Mass Culture. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL: 285–330.Google Scholar
  17. Richmond, A. & J. U. Grobbelaar, 1986. Factors affecting the output rate of Spirulina platensis with reference to mass cultivation. Biomass (in press).Google Scholar
  18. Schlender, B. R., 1986. New uses for algae improve image of a lowly plant group. Wall St J. (25 July): 25.Google Scholar
  19. Soeder, C. J., 1981. Types of algal ponds. In J. U. Grobbelaar, C. J. Soeder & D. F. Toerien (eds), Wastewater for aquaculture. Univ. Orange Free State Pub. Ser. C, Bloemfontein, S. Africa 3: 131–135.Google Scholar
  20. Vonshak, A., A. Abeliovich, S. Boussiba & A. Richmond, 1982. Production of Spirulina biomass: effects of environmental factors and population density. Biomass 2: 175 – 179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amos Richmond
    • 1
  1. 1.The Microalgal Biotechnology Laboratory, The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion University at Sede BoqerIsrael

Personalised recommendations