Light dilution via wavelength management for efficient high-density photobioreactors

Matthew D. Ooms, Percival J. Graham, Brian Nguyen, Edward H. Sargent, David Sinton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The spectral distribution of light influences microalgae productivity; however, development of photobioreactors has proceeded largely without regard to spectral optimization. Here, we use monochromatic light to quantify the joint influence of path length, culture density, light intensity, and wavelength on productivity and efficiency in Synechococcus elongatus. The productivity of green light was ∼4× that of red at the highest levels of culture density, depth, and light intensity. This performance is attributed to the combination of increased dilution and penetration of this weakly absorbed wavelength over a larger volume fraction of the reactor. In contrast, red light outperformed other wavelengths in low-density cultures with low light intensities. Low-density cultures also adapted more rapidly to reduce absorption of longer wavelengths, allowing for prolonged cultivation. Taken together, these results indicate that, particularly for artificially lit photobioreactors, wavelength needs to be included as a critical operational parameter to maintain optimal performance. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2017;114: 1160–1169.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1160-1169
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • cyanobacteria
  • light dilution
  • microalgae
  • photobioreactor
  • productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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