The open thin-layer photobioreactor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences
Refardt, Dominik (2014). The open thin-layer photobioreactor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences: Experiences after a year of continuous operation. In: BioTech 2014 & 6th Czech-Swiss Symposium. June 11-14. Prague, Czech Republic: ICT Prague Press.
Research on phototrophic cultivation of microalgae has witnessed a sharp rise in the last decade. In Switzerland, this research has typically been performed based on laboratory experiments. Larger-sized photobioreactors were lacking, which hindered the execution of more R&D-oriented projects. The Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW has therefore decided to acquire a photobioreactor that allows experimentation on a pilot-scale. This was achieved within the framework of the EUREKA project ’Alganol’ and in coope- ration with the Laboratory of Algal Cell Cycles (Institute of Microbiology, ASCR) and the Company BCS Engineering in Brno. The reactor, which is in operation since spring 2013 at the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences of the ZHAW, is an open thin-layer photobioreactor, equipped with various sensors and a PLC control system, which together allow a tight control of the cultivation process and a fine-grained, detailed collection of data. A year later, the reactor has already a firm place in the curriculum where it is used for teaching in different classes as well as for bachelor and masters theses. It has also sparked several research projects, which span from metagenomics to feed production. Due to its uniqueness in the Swiss research landscape, the reactor also allowed the ZHAW to join the ’biomass’ group of the Swiss Competence Centers of Energy Research SCCER, which have been funded by the Swiss government to promote energy research over the coming years.