Photoautotrophic organisms use solar radiation to carry out metabolic processes. Phototrophs store the produced energy as chemical energy by the formation of chemical bonds. Most of the photoautotrophic organisms also perform photosynthesis and convert carbon dioxide into organic material (e.g. sugars and fats). Therefore they can be used for the industrial production of biomass. Biomass production has become increasingly interesting in the biofuel or food industry.<br><br> <strong>Technology</strong><br> A highly efficient photobioreactor for growing and harvesting photoautotrophic organisms like the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 is presented. The photobioreactor has a gas-tight transparent housing, a gas exhaust and at least two compartments containing the photoautotrophic organisms and the nutrient solution for the phototrophs, respectively. The nutrient solution consists of a highly concentrated mineral carbon medium (e.g. sodium hydrogen carbonate solution) which acts as buffer medium at the same time. The photosynthetic compartment containing the phototrophic organisms is a thin layer (~ 10 mm) which is separated from the nutrient solution by a transparent semipermeable membrane. Thus, the diffusion of the nutrient solution into the photosynthetic compartment creates no turbulences as it would be in case of bubbling CO2 through the bioreactor. This diffusive feeding process results in high growth rates and efficient biomass production.
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