Turbidostat operation of outdoor pilot-scale photobioreactors

Jeroen H. de Vree*, Rouke Bosma, Rick Wieggers, Snezana Gegic, Marcel Janssen, Maria J. Barbosa, René H. Wijffels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of biomass concentration on areal productivity and photosynthetic efficiency of Nannochloropsis sp. CCAP211/78 was studied in three outdoor pilot-scale photobioreactors: an open raceway pond (OPR), a horizontal tubular (HT) photobioreactor and a vertically stacked horizontal tubular (VT) photobioreactor. The reactors were operated continuously as turbidostat at different biomass concentrations. For all systems highest areal productivities were obtained on days with a high light intensity, while the highest photosynthetic efficiencies were obtained on days with a low light intensity. Ground areal biomass concentration exceeding 51 g m-2 had a negative effect on the areal productivity and photosynthetic efficiency. No significant effect of biomass concentration on the productivity was found for the HT at ground areal biomass concentration lower than 51 g m-2. Also for the VT, no significant effect of biomass concentration was found with the exception of the highest biomass concentration of 2.0 g L-1 (68 g m-2) resulting in decreased productivity. For the open raceway pond the highest biomass concentration (0.5 g L-1 or 94 g m-2) resulted in significantly lower areal productivity, compared to the lower biomass concentration (0.25 g L 47 g m-2). Highest areal productivities were obtained for OPR and VT, most likely due to more efficient light interception. In this study we observed that night biomass loss was coupled to net growth. At lower biomass concentrations and concomitant higher growth rates the specific biomass loss rate was higher. Microalgal specific light absorption coefficient was correlated to biomass concentration; higher biomass concentrations resulted in higher specific absorption coefficients, resulting in a steeper light gradient in the microalgal cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-208
JournalAlgal Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Areal productivity
  • Biomass concentration
  • Microalgae
  • Nannochloropsis sp.
  • Outdoor pilot-scale photobioreactors
  • Photosynthetic efficiency

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