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Unusual research paper about design and construction algae pilot plant

Gepubliceerd op
18 november 2014

In October 2014 an unusual AlgaePARC research paper entitled ‘Design and construction of the microalgal pilot facility AlgaePARC’ was published after minor revisions in the Journal of Algal Research. In the paper the authors describe in detail how to build and run a pilot plant, like AlgaePARC pilot facility, making it a manual and a blue print for current and future pilot plants.

Sharing of expertise

‘After building AlgaePARC pilot facility in 2010, we have developed a unique expertise that we want to share with other groups interested in algae research’, says lead author Rouke Bosma. ‘In this technical article we explain and motivate choices that were made during designing and building AlgaePARC pilot facility.’ The construction and operation of an algae pilot plant is complex. Bosma: ‘With this article we really want to help moving this research field forward.’

Lessons learned

Although the principles of most systems used at AlgaePARC are known from literature, the added value of this paper is the lessons learned while adapting and optimizing designs. For example, the large tubular systems could initially only be started up as a whole (fig. 1). Consequently, a lot of algae starting material (inoculum) was needed. By separating the first loop from the main system using valves, this single loop can be started up first, using substantially less inoculum. When successfully grown, the loop is connected to the main system. Another improvement to tubular systems (Figure 1 and 2) was to remove dead corners and change sharp edged corners into smooth bends. This led to reduced energy requirements while maintaining the same liquid velocity.

Click images to enlarge

Fig. 1. ‘Stacked’ tubular algae reactor consisting of several connected loops.
Fig. 1. ‘Stacked’ tubular algae reactor consisting of several connected loops.
Fig. 2. Horizontal tubular algae reactor.
Fig. 2. Horizontal tubular algae reactor.

Valuable resource

The paper was reviewed by two Journal reviewers, who were both very positive in their comments and suggestions. They were unanimous in their evaluation about the high relevance of the paper. They were unanimous in their evaluation about the high relevance of the paper. ‘It must be published’, one reviewer said. The other reviewer stated that the paper was ‘a valuable resource for those constructing their own R&D and pilot systems as well as for those who already have outdoor cultivation systems in place.'