Productivity analysis in tubular photobioreactors using a dynamic photosynthesis model coupled to computational fluid dynamics particle tracking
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Tubular photobioreactors (TPBRs) are closed devices used for the mass culture of microalgae. TPBRs are supposed to be well-mixed, but the influence of their specific fluid dynamics in photosynthesis efficiency has never been studied in detail. Here, we use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) coupled to a dynamic photosynthesis model to analyze the efficiency of the photosynthetic response in the loop of TPBRs of different sizes (14, 24, 44, 64, and 84 mm) and circulation velocities (0.4 to 1 m s−1). The results show that only the smallest diameters cause enough radial mixing for a photosynthesis-enhancing light regime (integration factor Γ = 0.199 for D = 14 mm and v = 1 m s−1) while high circulation velocities in larger diameters (up to 1 m s−1) increase operating costs but do not enhance photosynthetic productivity. It is also shown the relevance of the characteristic frequency of the strain (β), which is crucial for high productivity.