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Design of a Stacked-layer Tubular Photobioreactor for Microalgae Cultivation

Varit Kunopagarnwong, Thongchai Rohitatisha Srinophakun, Theerawat Sritaweewat, Yusuf Chisti


A tubular photobioreactor is one of the most effective methods of microalgae cultivation because of the high solar receiver area and better biomass productivity. However, the pressure drop along the tubular solar receiver induces a relatively high dead zone. An optimal design is necessary to maximize biomass productivity. In this article, the proposed model can reduce the dead zone by up to 15% under a pressure drop of 106 Pa. To optimize the area requirement, three configurations with different stacking angles of 30, 45, and 60°, are simulated. The optimal 60° stacked-layer model is then connected to an airlift device to demonstrate the complete system. This model can circulate seawater inside the reactor at an average velocity of 0.188 m/s with 0.07 m/s of air inlet velocity. The radial flow can force the microalgae from the inner part of the tube to the outer part and back again throughout the entire stacked section. This turbulence will enhance biomass productivity because the microalgae are moved from the darker interior of the tube to the periphery where they are exposed to solar radiation. The optimal stacked-layer tubular photobioreactor has a slope of 60° with four stacked layers. This modification promotes the circulation of microalgae in both axial and radial directions.


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