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Preventing microalgae from adhering to plastic bag photobioreactors

Ardtoe Marine Laboratory (AML), a world leader in marine aquaculture,science and technology and the University of Glasgow recieved a 2013 SPARK award to identifying why the microalgae Tetraselmis adheres to plastic bag photobioreactors, and to develop preventitive strategies.

When growing the microalgae Tetraselmis suecica in plastic bag photobioreactors (PBPBR) Ardtoe Marine Laboratory regularly experiences settling or adherence of the cellls to the airlines and bag sides, irrespective of the levels of aeration used. 

This phenomenon leads to sub-optimal growth of the culture and thereby, reduced productivity, which in turn leads to further loss of productivity in its shellfish hatchery operations for which such algae is key input. They were thus seeking methods to eliminate this problem which has broader implications for different algae species and the aquaculture and microalgae biomass production industry as a whole. 

The Systems, Power and Energy Research Division, University of Glasgow and AML devised experiments to investigate methods of elimination of this biofilm.  Suggested evidence of preferential microalgal adherence to the side of the Plastic Bag Photobioreactor (PBPBR) furthest from the light was assessed, methods of producing a standard Tetreselmis biofilm were developed, and ways to reduce or eliminate adherence in the PBPBR found. 

Following experiments, a large diameter aerator was built and the testing to date indicates that the biofilm is not forming on the sidewalls of the PBPBR.  Following completion of these tests, a larger diffuser will be built for AML for testing and evaluation. 

 

Source: Summary SPARK report provided by the project partners

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