Multiphysics simulation of algal growth in an airlift photobioreactor: Effects of fluid mixing and shear stress

Xi Gao*, Bo Kong, R. Dennis Vigil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

A multiphysics model has been developed to predict the effects of fluid mixing and shear stress on microalgal growth in an airlift photobioreactor. The model integrates multiphase flow dynamics, radiation transport, shear stress, and algal growth kinetics using an Eulerian approach. The model is first validated by comparing its predictions with experimental data, and then the radiation transport and algal growth kinetics submodels are added to predict biomass accumulation under different flow conditions. The simulations correctly predict biomass growth curves for a wide range of superficial gas flow rates and demonstrate that biomass productivity increases with increased gas flow rate due to better light delivery to microorganisms. However, at the higher gas flow rates considered, shear stress on microorganisms inhibits biomass growth. Lastly, it is shown that the Eulerian approach used here provides a less cumbersome computational approach and provides better predictions than the circulation time and Lagrangian approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalBioresource Technology
Volume251
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Airlift reactor
  • CFD
  • Microalgae
  • Photobioreactors
  • Shear stress
  • Simulation

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