Topic background – In the past decades, cultivation of microalgae has received considerable attention for the production of fuels, (fine)chemicals and food supplements. Although economic applicability is within reach, productivity must still be increased and process operation simplified. More specifically, productivity is limited by light availability in mass cultures, and the complexity of simultaneously supplying carbon dioxide and removing oxygen, which requires substantial energy. Recently, it was demonstrated that the productivity can be increased through the supply of hydrogen gas as additional electron donor to reduce carbon dioxide. This strategy could, in theory, double the productivity.
Research challenges – So far, the usage of hydrogen for growth has been demonstrated under specific conditions and with only one species of cyanobacteria. The challenge is to find the optimal conditions under which the productivity can be enhanced by looking at the supplied light intensity and hydrogen in relation to the produced oxygen. These conditions will be translated and tested in a larger scale continuous production system. Also the implications for economic applicability will be analysed. Another challenge is to find if the mechanism of hydrogen uptake is widespread among phototrophic microorganisms.
Objectives and methodology – The mechanism of hydrogen usage and its effect on productivity and maximum biomass concentration will be studied in batch systems. In these systems hydrogen uptake can be coupled to the effect of light intensity and oxygen production. Further studies will be done in continuous systems that will allow to screen for optimal conditions. These optimal conditions will be tested in a larger scale production system.
Students’ requirements – We are looking for a motivated, enthusiastic, hands on candidate with a Msc background in bioprocess engineering or biochemical engineering and experience with bioreactors, and more specifically algae cultivation in photobioreactors. Interest in techno economic analysis of the production system is considered an advantage.
Keywords microalgae, photobioreactor, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, phototrophs
Wetsus and University supervisor: Dr. Tom Sleutels (University of Groningen/Wetsus)
University Promotors: Prof. Gert-Jan Euverink (University of Groningen), Prof. Cees Buisman (Wageningen University & Research).
Only applications that are complete, in English, and submitted via the application webpage before the deadline, 9 May 2022 15.00 CEST, will be considered eligible.
Guidelines for applicants: https://phdpositionswetsus.eu/guide-for-applicants/