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Radiation transfer in photobiological carbon dioxide fixation and fuel production by microalgae


Solar radiation is the energy source driving the metabolic activity of microorganisms able to photobiologically fixate carbon dioxide and convert solar energy into biofuels. Thus, careful radiation transfer analysis must be conducted in order to design and operate efficient photobioreactors. This review paper first introduces light harvesting mechanisms used by microorganisms as well as photosynthesis and photobiological fuel production. It then provides a thorough and critical review of both experimental and modeling efforts focusing on radiation transfer in microalgae suspension. Experimental methods to determine the radiation characteristics of microalgae are presented. Methods for solving the radiation transfer equation in photobioreactors with or without bubbles are also discussed. Sample measurements and numerical solutions are provided. Finally, novel strategies for achieving optimum light delivery and maximizing sunlight utilization in photobioreactors are discussed including genetic engineering of microorganisms with truncated chlorophyll antenna.