A numerical study of the motion of algal cells in a representative thin-layer-cascade (TLC) photobioreactor is presented. The goal is to determine the time scale associated with the light/dark (L/D) cycle seen by the cells during their turbulent motion in the liquid culture. Owing to the limited reliability of the available numerical results which deal with time-averaged quantities and thus lack time-resolved information, the present study is based upon the Direct Numerical Simulation of the Navier-Stokes equations, a reliable but consequently expensive numerical approach which does not incur in turbulence modelling errors. Indeed, the simulation is successfully validated in terms of averaged velocity with experimental data. The availability of full temporal information allows algae cells to be followed in time along their trajectories. A large number (up to a million) of tracers is placed in the flow to mimic the algae cell. Their trajectories are statistically studied and linked to the turbulent mixing. Results indicate that, in a typical TLC reactor designed to mimic an experimental setup, cells undergo an L/D cycle with a time scale in the range 0.1–2 s. Such time scale, albeit much longer than the typical time scale of the photosynthesis, significantly benefits the productivity of the algae compared to a steady illumination.

The light/dark cycle of microalgae in a thin-layer photobioreactor

Chiarini A.;Quadrio M.
2021-01-01

Abstract

A numerical study of the motion of algal cells in a representative thin-layer-cascade (TLC) photobioreactor is presented. The goal is to determine the time scale associated with the light/dark (L/D) cycle seen by the cells during their turbulent motion in the liquid culture. Owing to the limited reliability of the available numerical results which deal with time-averaged quantities and thus lack time-resolved information, the present study is based upon the Direct Numerical Simulation of the Navier-Stokes equations, a reliable but consequently expensive numerical approach which does not incur in turbulence modelling errors. Indeed, the simulation is successfully validated in terms of averaged velocity with experimental data. The availability of full temporal information allows algae cells to be followed in time along their trajectories. A large number (up to a million) of tracers is placed in the flow to mimic the algae cell. Their trajectories are statistically studied and linked to the turbulent mixing. Results indicate that, in a typical TLC reactor designed to mimic an experimental setup, cells undergo an L/D cycle with a time scale in the range 0.1–2 s. Such time scale, albeit much longer than the typical time scale of the photosynthesis, significantly benefits the productivity of the algae compared to a steady illumination.
Direct numerical simulation
Light/dark cycle
Microalgae
Thin-layer-cascade photobioreactor
Turbulence
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1154858
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