Raceway Reactor for Microalgal Biodiesel Production

EPA Grant Number: SU834696
Title: Raceway Reactor for Microalgal Biodiesel Production
Investigators: Khandan, Nirmala
Current Investigators: Khandan, Nirmala , Arudchelvam, Yalini , Boeing, Weibke , Ketheesan, Balachandran , Pegallapati, Ambica Koushik
Institution: New Mexico State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $9,996
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Biodiesel from microalgae has been identified as one of the most promising alternative fuels for replacing traditional fossil fuels due to its carbon neutrality, renewability and sustainability. For algal biodiesel to be cost-effective, the two technical challenges in algal cultivation have to be overcome: improve algal productivity and lipid accumulation than that is currently possible; and develop energyefficient bioreactor configurations for maintaining optimal levels of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. This project will focus on the development of a novel bioreactor design to enhance carbon dioxide (CO2) levels to achieve two goals: 1) increase algal growth and lipid accumulation; and 2) sequester anthropogenic CO2 emissions to reduce greenhouse effect. As part of this study, a mathematical model will be developed, calibrated, and validated.


A novel lab-scale raceway reactor with down flow U-tube (DU-tube) airlift reactors for efficient CO2 supply will be fabricated and tested with two algal species- Nanochloropsis Salina and Scenedesmus sp. Experimental data generated during these tests will be used to calibrate and validate the process model to be developed as part of this study.

Expected Results:

The proposed mathematical model incorporating mass transfer, hydraulics, carbonate/aquatic chemistry, biokinetics, biology and reactor design will be calibrated and validated using the data to be generated from the experiments. The practical feasibility of the proposed reactor configuration will be evaluated using the results of the experiments and model simulations. The validated model can be of use in optimizing the process and in scale-up of the process.

The results of this P3 project will be incorporated into one of the graduate level courses to be taught by the PI of this proposal. The lab scale reactor to be constructed in this project will be used as demo in this course and in an undergraduate Hydraulic Engineering course taught by the PI to illustrate the use of channel flow principles in non-traditional applications. The mathematical model to be developed in this project will be used as a simulation and design tool in the graduate level course.

Supplemental Keywords:

raceway reactor, modeling, sustainability, carbon fixation, algal biodiesel;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report