High Production Volume Photo-bioreactor

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Technology abstract

IPStar and Université Blaise Pascal have a technology to develop high production volume photo bioreactors for microalgae production and harvesting. Microalgae can be used for food, animal feedstock nutraceuticals, fuel stock and water purification purposes. Advantage of tech: high production volumes of microalgae in a closed environment, independently of the natural light conditions, isolated from contaminant agents, with a very reduced land footprint

IPStar has a unique technology for photovoltaic bio-reactors (PBR) to create high volume: up to 10x increase of production, in a stable closed environment. Chemical companies, energy companies are potential partners, but it could also be the ‘end-users’ of such technology like airlines or food-producers (fish/meat industry).

- Derk Schneemann -

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Technology Description

A microalgae photobioreactor (PBR) consists in a closed bioreactor employed for growing and harvesting photoautotrophic algae species. Growing conditions are highly influenced by environmental conditions such as: light, carbon uptake, mixing and gas conditions and nutrients supplied.
The UPB focuses its research efforts on the design of High Production Volumes PBRs for both sun and artificial lighting conditions.
In order to evaluate and validate the theoretical models, the UPB implemented different types of PBRs prototypes and carried out a series of 30 experiments.
However, theoretical calculations of UPB revealed serious limitations of performance when scaling up the externally lightened PBRs. Indeed, it was concluded that it is almost impossible to up-scale externally illuminated PBRs up to 100L. without a significant lost in the biomass growth rate
Internally illuminated PBRs emerge as the most suitable solution to overcome the scaling-up limitations that PBRs encounter. This solution considers both solar and artificial lighting. The UPB presents an extensive knowledge in the optimal assembly of the lighting structures that yields to maximum biomass growth rates. Amongst the internally radiated PBRs concepts, the DiCoFluV concept appears to be the most promising.
As for the harvesting process, UPB employs a membrane filtration technique due to its high efficiency and low risk of damaging the microalgae cells. Additionally, internally illuminated PBRs require pneumatic systems for mixing so as to prevent damages in the culture cells.
Summarizing, the application of UPB knowledge and concepts in lighting configuration brings an ideal solution to reality, allowing to attain maximum performances in biomass productivity for PBRs using both types of lighting conditions, solar or artificial, and externally or internally radiated.

Innovations & Advantages

The advantages of microalgae production in PBRS, in comparison to open-systems, are:

  • Reduced risk of contamination;
  • Process easier to control, process more stable not subjected to night and day cycles;
  • Easy to monitor; 

  • Do not compete with arable land; 

  • Less land area for same production volumes (less environmental footprint); 

  • Better mass transfer;
  • Higher biomass concentration 


 
The improvement factors of production in comparison to other PBR technologies are depicted in the next table. These are based on ground field-test:

Scale

Culture Volume

Improvement factors

Lab-scale

<20

1.5 to 2

Pilot-scale

20-300

2 to 4

Small-industrial

1000

10

 
To the knowledge of IPStar/UBP, these performances are not yet commercially available.

Further Information

The unique feature of this technology is the capability of increased production volume in comparison to other type of PBRs.
The capability of up-scaling PBRs up to volumes of 100 L. or more is the direct consequence of implementing an internally radiated concept of PBR. This concept plays key role in order to develop market involving high volume and low value products such as biofuels. Indeed, during the commercial applications analysis presented in this report, the necessity of attaining higher production efficiency has been identified as a main issue to address

Current and Potential Domains of Application

The potential domains of applications are:
·       Water recycling
·       Oxygen generation
·       Food production
·       Feedstock production
·       Bioplastics
·       Nutraceuticals
·       Fuel stock
 
This could be interesting technology for the energy-sector (biofuels) and chemicals-sector (pigments, food, bioplastics).