BPE-35306 Microalgae Biotechnology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. MGJ Janssen
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. MGJ Janssen
Examiner(s)dr. ir. MGJ Janssen

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

BPE-10305/12806 (Bio)Process Engineering Basics (BT); BPE-21306 Bioreactor Design, or BPE-20806 Separation Process Design


Because of an intensive practical employing small-scale controlled photobioreactors this course has a maximum number of students. The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. Other implications: 

- priority will be given to students for whom this course is compulsory
- exchange students cannot follow this course unless there is still place available. 

The waters of the world house a tremendous variety of autotrophic micro-organisms that are able to use sunlight as the sole energy source to fuel metabolism. These unicellular organisms, microalgae and cyanobacteria, are an abundant source for products that can contribute to a sustainable supply of food and feed products and possibly can serve as a feedstock for a future biobased chemistry.

In this course microalgae production in photobioreactors is described as a function of light exposure in a simple mathematical model.  Accordingly, the productivity of photobioreactors is calculated and analysed. Growth limiting factors apart from light will be discussed in more general terms. Microalgae will be cultivated in lab-scale photobioreactors in a practical, and a desktop photobioreactor design will be made in a case study. In the desk-top design special emphasis will be given to gas-liquid transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Specific applications of microalgae will be discussed and quantitatively analysed based on selected studies from scientific literature.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

- describe and analyse the growth limiting factors for microalgae cultivation;

- describe outdoor photobioreactors, and understand and explain their functioning;

- describe photoautotrophic microalgal growth in a mathematical model and analyse light use efficiency;

- describe and calculate photbioreactor productivity with a mathematical model and analyse light conversion efficiency;

- systematically work on a photobioreactor design and its operation for the production of microalgae; 

- culture microalgae in lab-scale photobioreactors under controlled conditions;

- design, execute and evaluate experiments to maximize microalgae production under simulated outdoor conditions.


Following lectures and tutorials, studying lecture notes and course reader, and practicing example calculations. Designing a photobioreactor and optimizing its operation in a computer-assisted case study. Practical experimentation in a lab-scale photobioreactor, including planning, mathematical model simulations, data analysis and reporting.


The final mark will be based on a mark for the written exam (60%, minimal mark 5.5) consisting of open questions, a mark for reporting on the practical part of the course (20%, minimal mark 5.5), and a mark for the report on the PBR design case study (20%, minimal mark 5.5). In order to receive the final mark attendance and successful completion of both the practical and the PBR design case study is mandatory. Grades for practical and case study will remain valid for the following two re-exam opportunities.


A reader will be distributed as a pdf in Brightspace at the start of the course.

Restricted Optional for: MBTBiotechnologyMScE: Environmental and Biobased Biotechnology5MO
MBTBiotechnologyMScA: Cellular/Molecular Biotechnology5MO
MBTBiotechnologyMScD: Process Technology5MO
MBSBiobased SciencesMScB: Biorefinery and conversion5MO