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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 20-Dec-2018
AbstractMicroalgae have been recognized as one of the most promising feedstocks for biofuel production. In the Regional Algal Feedstock Testbed (RAFT) project, scientists and engineers have been working on various topics including improving cultivation strategy, optimizing culture system, developing production models, controlling contamination, and so on. One of the objectives in this project is to improve an algae cultivation model for productivity prediction and techno-economic assessment. The model adopted in this project is the Huesemann Algae Biomass Growth (HABG) model which is based upon strain characteristics obtained from laboratory experiments. However, because the model assumed optimal growth conditions for microalgae, it over-predicted biomass growth significantly when its results were compared to outdoor raceway experimental data. For example, in an attempt to control contamination, culture salinity was raised to a high level. The high salinity may limit growth of contaminants, but it also causes stress on salinity sensitive strains of microalgae. Researchers also lowered nutrient fertilization rates in order to minimize fertilizer input and cost of production. However, this introduced nutrient stress and lowered the growth rate of microalgae. In the raceways used in the RAFT project, shade covered a large fraction of the culture surface when solar angle was low. All of these growth limiting factors were not included in the original model. In this study, salinity stress, nitrogen limitation and shading effect were incorporated into the model. Growth rate reduction due to salinity stress and nitrogen limitation were quantified through laboratory experiments. An innovative concept of nitrogen availability was introduced, which estimates the nitrogen stress factor without measuring intracellular nitrogen. The shading factor was calculated based on solar position during the day and raceway geometry. The modification greatly improved the model accuracy. In addition to HABG model improvements, this study also focused on nutrient application. Several experiments were performed in both indoor and outdoor systems to improve field cultivation practices. The nitrogen experiments provided not only the growth kinetics that improved the growth model, but also demonstrated that high lipid accumulation rate was triggered at different nitrogen stress intensities for different strains. Stress should be applied depending the saturation demand of the final lipid product. In order to quickly evaluate the nitrogen status in the culture, a nitrogen stress index using optical density was proposed. Experiments in RAFT experiments supported the feasibility of applying the method in outdoor cultivation. This study also investigated maximum biomass yields of nitrogen and phosphorus for producing S. obliquus biomass with indoor bench scale experiments. The results were tested in the outdoor raceways and demonstrated the potential of using fertilizer more efficiently in microalgae cultivation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering