Physics of ultra-high bioproductivity in algal photobioreactors Academic Article uri icon


  • Cultivating algae at high densities in thin photobioreactors engenders time scales for random cell motion that approach photosynthetic rate-limiting time scales. This synchronization allows bioproductivity above that achieved with conventional strategies. We show that a diffusion model for cell motion (1) accounts for high bioproductivity at irradiance values previously deemed restricted by photoinhibition, (2) predicts the existence of optimal culture densities and their dependence on irradiance, consistent with available data, (3) accounts for the observed degree to which mixing improves bioproductivity, and (4) provides an estimate of effective cell diffusion coefficients, in accord with independent hydrodynamic estimates.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012