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Symbiotic Cultures for Increasing the Solar Energy Conversion Efficiency of Outdoor Photobioreactors

[+] Author Affiliations
Halil Berberoğlu

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Laurent Pilon

University of California, Los Angeles, CA

Paper No. HT2009-88249, pp. 261-270; 10 pages
doi:10.1115/HT2009-88249
From:
  • ASME 2009 Heat Transfer Summer Conference collocated with the InterPACK09 and 3rd Energy Sustainability Conferences
  • Volume 1: Heat Transfer in Energy Systems; Thermophysical Properties; Heat Transfer Equipment; Heat Transfer in Electronic Equipment
  • San Francisco, California, USA, July 19–23, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Heat Transfer Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4356-7 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3851-8
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME

abstract

A numerical study is presented aiming to maximize the solar to hydrogen energy conversion efficiency of a symbiotic culture containing microorganisms with different absorption characteristics. The green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii CC125 and the purple non-sulfur bacteria Rhodobacter sphearoides ATCC 49419 are chosen for illustration purposes. The previously measured radiation characteristics of each microorganism are used as input parameters in the radiative transport equation for calculating the local spectral incident radiation within a flat panel photobioreactor. The specific hydrogen production rate for each microorganism as a function of the available incident radiation is recovered from data reported in the literature. The overall solar to hydrogen energy conversion efficiency of symbiotic cultures of varying microorganism concentrations have been computed for photobioreactor thicknesses from 1 to 10 cm. The results show that for a given photobioreactor thickness a saturation microorganism concentration exists above which the solar energy conversion efficiency does not increase. The maximum solar energy conversion efficiencies of solo cultures of C. reinhardtii and R. spaheroides at their respective saturation concentrations are 0.06 and 0.055%, respectively. Using symbiotic cultures, a total conversion efficiency of about 0.075% is achieved within the parameter range explored. It has been shown that the choice of microorganism concentrations for maximum solar energy conversion efficiency is non-trivial and requires careful radiation transfer analysis coupled with H2 production kinetics taking into account the photobioreactor thickness. The presented numerical tool can be used for simulating any photobiological or photochemical process involving more than one species with different radiation characteristics provided the closure laws for the reaction kinetics are known as a function of spectral incident radiation. Examples include (i) the symbiotic cultivation of more than one microorganism for biomass or lipid production in a photobioreactor and (ii) a photochemical reactor containing a number of absorbing and scattering photocatalysts with different band gaps.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME

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