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Biodiesel Algal Bioreactors As Educational Projects: Engineering Factors And A Case Study Of Estimation

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Bioengineering laboratories: Bringing research into the classroom

Tagged Division

Biological & Agricultural

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.309.1 - 12.309.9



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Paper Authors

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Alvin Post Arizona State University

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Qiang Hu Arizona State University

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Milton Sommerfeld Arizona State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Biodiesel Algal Bioreactors as Educational Projects: Engineering Factors and a Case Study of Estimation. Abstract:

Two experimental closed-system bioreactors that produce algae for biodiesel are described, along with a discussion of the basic requirements for algae growth. The reactors were built by students and faculty, and are producing algae in support of research grants. For one of the reactors, detailed cost and scheduling data was collected, allowing careful comparison with initial estimates. The case provides a useful example that illustrates the inaccuracies of textbook estimating techniques, in some circumstances.


Algae is an alternative and advantageous source of biomass for biodiesel production, with a realistic potential per-acre yield of perhaps 200 barrels per acre per year, well beyond that of competing crops. The same algae crop can produce carotenoids as a by-product, enhancing its financial attractiveness. Because inputs include carbon dioxide and farm waste, algae production can mitigate pollution. Algae can be produced in open ponds or in continuous flow closed systems. Closed systems will prove more productive, but they are also more costly and they present different technical challenges.

Figure 1: Algae seeded into a full bioreactor tank.

These systems are not particularly complex, but they do pose challenging and educationally useful engineering problems. Efficient algal production requires environmental control of temperature, CO2 and pH levels, nutrients, aeration and mixing, and light. Design and construction of a reactor that maintains optimal environmental conditions and resists corrosion poses standard engineering problems that engineering students can successfully work through, with a sense of real accomplishment. However, the real challenge for development of algal

Post, A., & Hu, Q., & Sommerfeld, M. (2007, June), Biodiesel Algal Bioreactors As Educational Projects: Engineering Factors And A Case Study Of Estimation Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1978

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