• photobioreactor;
  • solar;
  • modeling;
  • kinetics;
  • microalgae;
  • cyanobacteria;
  • radiative transfer;
  • maximal productivities


Modeling was done to simulate whole-year running of solar rectangular photobioreactors (PBRs). Introducing the concept of ideal reactor, the maximal biomass productivity that could be achieved on Earth on nitrate as N-source was calculated. Two additional factors were also analyzed with respect to dynamic calculations over the whole year: the effect of PBR location and the effects of given operating conditions on the resulting decrease in productivity compared with the ideal one. Simulations were conducted for the cyanobacterium Arthospira platensis, giving an ideal productivity (upper limit) in the range 55–60 tX ha−1 year−1 for a sun tracking system (and around 35–40 tX ha−1 year−1 for a fixed horizontal PBR). For an implantation in France (Nantes, west coast), the modification in irradiation conditions resulted in a decrease in biomass productivity of 40%. Various parameters were investigated, with special emphasis on the influence of the incident angle of solar illumination on resulting productivities, affecting both light capture and light transfer inside the bulk culture. It was also found that with appropriate optimization of the residence time as permitted by the model, productivities close to maximal could be achieved for a given location. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2012