Space saving photobioreactors for mass production of endemic diatoms species

Feb 15, 2018

Sean Cloud, Mechanical Engineering

Mentor: Dr. Melba Horton

The mass production of diatom species for engineering applications is unique compared to other forms of algae, where the diatom’s yield is directly proportional to the surface area available for growth. This offers unique challenges regarding the types of systems that must be constructed for effectively growing diatoms cultures. These containers require high surface area with low volume based on the microscopy of samples taken from Polk county lakes, supplied by Polk County Parks and Recreation.

These samples show that the concentration of the diatoms population was almost entirely residing on the bottom surfaces of the container. This unique growing characteristic, however, does open the possibility to vertical structures with multiple, shallow photo-bioreactors for diatom growth to increase mass production yields, while minimizing culture media cost per yield and space required for mass production applications. This fact would make mass producing diatoms more accessible to a wider variety of persons and organizations around the world for a growing market in diatom research. (Research funded by Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute, Bartow, FL)

“Diatom is a unique specie of algae that is not as easy to grow. Our goal with these research is to explore using them for renewable energy, agriculture, technology and even electrical purposes,” said Dr. Melba Horton, professor of Biology and mentor. “The possibilities are endless”.

Lydia Guzman
Assistant Director of Communications