Models of microalgal cultivation for added-value products - A review

Mesut Bekirogullari, Gonzalo Figueroa Torres, Jon Pittman, Constantinos Theodoropoulos

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Microalgae are considered a promising feedstock for biorefineries given that their chemical composition – rich in carbohydrate and lipid - can be directed towards the co-production of various value-added fuels and chemicals. Production of microalgal biomass for biorefinery purposes requires the identification and establishment of optimal cultivation systems, a crucial yet complicated task due to the numerous factors (e.g. media composition, light, temperature) that simultaneously regulate biomass growth and intracellular composition. Modelling these biological processes, taking into account a single or multiple growth-limiting factors, offers a valuable tool to simulate, design and optimise the dynamics of microalgae cultivation. This review provides an overview of existing models developed to describe microalgal growth processes at the macroscopic scale (also termed black-box models) and discusses their formulation in detail. The black-box kinetic modelling frameworks are compiled into single-factor (6 formulations) and multiple-factor (32 formulations - further divided into non-interactive, additive, and interactive) growth kinetic models, as reported in more than 80 studies, for the prediction of biomass growth as a function of major operational factors such as media composition (e.g. nutrient concentration) and environmental factors (e.g. transient light and temperature). In addition, the review focuses on those models that further account for the production dynamics of two microalgal intracellular products with renowned potential as biorefinery substrates: carbohydrate and lipid molecules. Models of microalgal cultivation dynamics offer a robust engineering tool to understand the natural yet complex responses of microalgae to their growing environment and can help - if used appropriately - to optimise microalgae cultivation and increase the economic viability and sustainability of microalgal systems.

Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationBiotechnology Advances
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2020


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