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Development of an Automated Algae Growth System

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Paper number  131611113,  2013 Kansas City, Missouri, July 21 - July 24, 2013. (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13031/aim.20131611113) @2013
Authors:   Weiming Cai, Nurhan Turgut Dunford, Ning Wang, Songming Zhu, Yongbo Wan, Yan Zhu
Keywords:   Automatic control system algae growth algae harvest algae bioreactor spectral data

Abstract. Various bioreactor designs have been investigated to grow microalgae and produce biomass. Efficient operation of a bioreactor requires close control of growth conditions which is possible through frequent data collection from the system. Manual sample collection and analyses are both laborious and relatively expensive. Development of an integrated real-time bioreactor monitoring and control system is important for making decisions with respect to nutrient delivery, biomass harvesting time, light and CO2 supply cycles and temperature to prevent economic losses during algae growth. In this study, an automated system was developed to monitor and control an algae bioreactor. The system which is controlled by a computer consists of a spectrophotometer, one circulating pump that is used to extract algae samples from the algae bioreactor to a pipeline, and two pumps that are used to replace a portion of the culture medium at its maximum cell concentration with fresh medium containing nutrients. A computer program was developed to collect spectral data from the bioreactor in real time. Mathematical model describing relationships between spectral data and biomass concentration have also been developed for Picochlorum oklahomensis (PO) microalgae strain. Such an automated culture growth system allows us to run a bioreactor in a semi-continuous mode of operation and minimize microbial contamination during sampling, harvesting and nutrient addition to the system.

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