American Chemical Society
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Full-Scale Validation of a Model of Algal Productivity

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-12-02, 00:00 authored by Quentin Béchet, Andy Shilton, Benoit Guieysse
While modeling algal productivity outdoors is crucial to assess the economic and environmental performance of full-scale cultivation, most of the models hitherto developed for this purpose have not been validated under fully relevant conditions, especially with regard to temperature variations. The objective of this study was to independently validate a model of algal biomass productivity accounting for both light and temperature and constructed using parameters experimentally derived using short-term indoor experiments. To do this, the accuracy of a model developed for Chlorella vulgaris was assessed against data collected from photobioreactors operated outdoor (New Zealand) over different seasons, years, and operating conditions (temperature-control/no temperature-control, batch, and fed-batch regimes). The model accurately predicted experimental productivities under all conditions tested, yielding an overall accuracy of ±8.4% over 148 days of cultivation. For the purpose of assessing the feasibility of full-scale algal cultivation, the use of the productivity model was therefore shown to markedly reduce uncertainty in cost of biofuel production while also eliminating uncertainties in water demand, a critical element of environmental impact assessments. Simulations at five climatic locations demonstrated that temperature-control in outdoor photobioreactors would require tremendous amounts of energy without considerable increase of algal biomass. Prior assessments neglecting the impact of temperature variations on algal productivity in photobioreactors may therefore be erroneous.