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Bioresour Technol. 2010 Nov;101(22):8690-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2010.06.086. Epub 2010 Jul 14.

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in microalgal photobioreactors: a potential loss in solar energy conversion?

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School of Ocean Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, UK.


Microalgae are considered to be a potential alternative to terrestrial crops for bio-energy production due to their relatively high productivity per unit area of land. In this work we examined the amount of dissolved organic matter exuded by algal cells cultured in photobioreactors, to examine whether a significant fraction of the photoassimilated biomass could potentially be lost from the harvestable biomass. We found that the mean maximum amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) released measured 6.4% and 17.3% of the total organic carbon in cultures of Chlorellavulgaris and Dunaliella tertiolecta, respectively. This DOM in turn supported a significant growth of bacterial biomass, representing a further loss of the algal assimilated carbon. The release of these levels of DOC indicates that a significant fraction of the photosynthetically fixed organic matter could be lost into the surrounding water, suggesting that the actual biomass yield per hectare for industrial purposes could be somewhat less than expected. A simple and inexpensive optical technique, based on chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) measurements, to monitor such losses in commercial PBRs is discussed.

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