A validated thermal and biological model for predicting algal productivity in large scale outdoor cultivation systems

Jonah M. Greene, David Quiroz, Samuel Compton, Peter J. Lammers, Jason C. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Proper assessment of the sustainability of algal products requires an understanding of algal growth rate with regional and temporal resolution. This study developed a bulk growth model that utilizes geospatial data, reactor geometry inputs, and a maximum of six strain-specific parameters to predict algal productivity with temporal and regional resolution. The model requires local weather data to calculate the time-resolved culture temperature which is combined with a biological model based on maximum theoretical carbon fixation to predict the time-resolved algal concentration. Validation of the model against experimental data illustrates an average accuracy of 0.27% ± 5.32% when comparing algal concentration at harvest over 45 days of cultivation data for Galdieria sulphuraria 5587.1, and Galdieria sulphuraria Soos grown in photobioreactors (PBRs) in Mesa, AZ (33.4152° N, 111.8315° W). For open raceway ponds (ORPs), an accuracy of 0.9% ± 2.35% was achieved when comparing algal concentration at harvest over 50 days of cultivation data for Chlorella vulgaris, Desmodesmus intermedius, Nannochloropsis oceanica grown in Atlanta, GA (33.7490° N, 84.3880° W) and Mesa, AZ (33.4152° N, 111.8315° W). The validation trials spanned three seasons (winter, spring, and summer) to ensure model accuracy throughout the year, and concentration between harvests was modeled with hourly resolution. The validated model is used to assess the productivity at several case-study locations in the United States with Chlorella vulgaris, grown in open raceway ponds and Galdieria sulphuraria grown in vertical flat panel photobioreactors. The model has been published as an open-source tool, in an effort to increase the fidelity of future studies that rely on outdoor algae cultivation for feedstock production and allow for time resolved results for future techno-economic and life cycle assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102224
JournalAlgal Research
Volume54
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Microalgae
  • Open raceway pond
  • Open-source model
  • Photobioreactor
  • Thermal model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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