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Research Papers

Temperature Fluctuation and Evaporative Loss Rate in an Algae Biofilm Photobioreactor

[+] Author and Article Information
Thomas E. Murphy

Mechanical Engineering Department, Cockrell School of Engineering,  The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712berberoglu@mail.utexas.edu

Halil Berberoğlu1

Mechanical Engineering Department, Cockrell School of Engineering,  The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712berberoglu@mail.utexas.edu

1

Corresponding author.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 134(1), 011002 (Nov 01, 2011) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4005088 History: Received May 11, 2011; Accepted September 01, 2011; Published November 01, 2011; Online November 01, 2011

This study describes the thermal modeling of a novel algal biofilm photobioreactor aimed at cultivating algae for biofuel production. The thermal model is developed to assess the photobioreactor’s thermal profile and evaporative water loss rate for a range of environmental parameters, including ambient air temperature, solar irradiation, relative humidity, and wind speed. First, a week-long simulation of the system has been performed using environmental data for Memphis, TN, on a typical week during the spring, summer, fall, and winter. Then, a sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the effect of each weather parameter on the temperature and evaporative loss rate of the photobioreactor. The range of the daily algae temperature variation was observed to be 12.2  °C, 13.2 °C, 11.7 °C, and 8.2 °C in the spring, summer, fall, and winter, respectively. Furthermore, without active cooling, the characteristic evaporative water loss from the system is approximately 6.0 L/m2 day, 7.3 L/m2 day, 3.4 L/m2 day, and 1.0 L/m2 day in the spring, summer, fall, and winter, respectively.

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Figures

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Figure 1

(a) Schematic of the geometry and heat transfer processes of the system and (b) photograph of the prototype biofilm photobioreactor in our laboratory

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Figure 2

Hourly air temperature, wind velocity, solar irradiance, and relative humidity for: (a) the spring week of May 12–18, (b) the summer week of July 7–13, (c) the fall week of September 26–October 2, and (d) the winter week of November 28–December 4 for Memphis, TN

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Figure 3

Algae biofilm temperatures and evaporative loss rates for: (a) spring, (b) summer, (c) fall, and (d) winter. On the temperature plots, solid lines represent the maximum algae temperature in the biofilm, dashed lines represent the minimum algae temperature in the biofilm, and the dotted lines represent the ambient air temperature.

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Figure 4

Relative sensitivities of (a) maximum and (b) minimum daily algae temperature and (c) evaporative loss rate to changes in air temperature in °C (), relative humidity (), irradiance (), and wind velocity (Δ)

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Figure 5

Maximum algae temperature and evaporative loss rate for BPBRs with water layer thicknesses varying from 0.01 m to 0.1 m on May 13

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