Detailing the start-up and microalgal growth performance of a full-scale photobioreactor operated with bioindustrial wastewater

Michael Paul Ambrose Podevin, Ioannis Fotidis, Davide De Francisci, Per Møller, Irini Angelidaki

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this study, a full-scale enclosed microalgal air-lift photobioreactor (PBR) module was operated using both defined and industrial wastewater (WW) media. In the effort to establish full-scale operation: a WW ultrafiltration system, two algal productions, and a harvesting microfiltration system were tested. Bioindustrial WW medium was treated with ultrafiltration and was demonstrated to be a viable microalgal growth medium at large scale; however, further treatment is needed for the removal of fecal coliform to meet drinking water standards. The fresh water mesophilic algae Chlorella sorokiniana was successfully grown on bioindustrial WW medium at suboptimal temperatures (< 25 °C) and natural lighting with peak specific growth rate (SGR) of 0.48 day− 1, consistent with lab-scale results from literature. Optical densities (OD) of the algae at 665, 680, and 735 nm were found to be viable proxies for cell number of C. sorokiniana grown outdoors with daily fluctuations, despite inherent differences in chlorophyll sensitivity at each absorbance wavelength. However, OD measurements at different reactor locations shown to diverge at the onset of growth. Greenhouse temperature and solar insolation were measured, where it was observed that the SGR did not considerably improve from higher solar irradiance during periods of lower temperatures. Finally, the viability of harvested cells after microfiltration was also examined, with a negative exponential correlation between cell death and the volume of remaining filter condensate (R2 = 0.9247).
Original languageEnglish
JournalAlgal Research
Pages (from-to)101-108
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Algae
  • Biorefinery
  • Air-lift photobioreactor
  • Chlorella sorokiniana
  • Technical water
  • Ultrafilitration

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