The rate of production of algal biomass in optically dense photobioreactors depends crucially on the temporal light exposure of microorganisms, which in turn is determined by fluid flow patterns and the quantity and spatial distribution of photosynthetically active radiation. In this report it is demonstrated that highly organized and robust toroidal flow structures known as Taylor vortices cause significant increases in the rate of biomass production, efficiency of light utilization, and CO2 uptake, and these effects become more pronounced at higher Reynolds numbers. In light of these findings and previously reported experiments using Taylor vortex flow to culture algae, it is argued that the flashing light effect, rather than mass transport effects, is responsible for the observed increases in the rate of photosynthesis. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 2140–2149. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.