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Smart lighting technologies for advanced growth of algae in photobioreactors

   School of Physics and Astronomy

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  Prof Graham Turnbull, Prof L Lawton, Prof Christine Edwards, Dr Douglas McKenzie  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Smart lighting technologies for advanced growth of algae in photobioreactors


Principal supervisor: Prof Graham Alexander Turnbull (University of St Andrews)

Co-supervisors: Profs Linda Lawton and Christine Edwards (Robert Gordon University); Dr Douglas Mckenzie (Xanthella Ltd)

This multi-disciplinary PhD project, "Dial a wavelength for exploiting the algal cell factory”, will involve a collaboration between physicists at the University of St Andrews, microbiologists at Robert Gordon University, and industrial partner Xanthella Ltd. The PhD Studentship is funded by the IBioIC Collaborative Training Partnership, and the appointed student will be part of the IBioIC CTP training programme:

Microalgae are of value in a wide array of applications including pharmaceuticals and food supplements. Most algae use light energy and CO2 for growth, providing valuable by-products whilst sequestering waste CO2. They are of increasing interest as components of the Circular Economy as sustainable solutions for food, energy and water security. Photobioreactors can be used to grow algae, making use of surplus electricity from renewable power generation, however, new smart-lighting systems are needed that can optimise production.

In this project a novel smart lighting system will be developed for photobioreactors that can adapt both intensity and wavelength during a growth cycle to target strains and specific bioproducts. LEDs will be combined with a custom-designed optical system and electronic control to achieve efficient light delivery throughout the growth reactor. The impact of illumination wavelength and will be assessed initially in laboratory-scale growth tests before subsequent scale-up and integration in industrial photobioreactors.

The main activities of the project will be designing and building the lighting system and algal growth tests. It will also include a substantial industrial placement at Xanthella. Training on algal culture and compound analysis will be undertaken at RGU, and once laboratory-scale tests have identified suitable growth methodologies, the lighting system will be adapted for integration with Xanthella's commercial photobioreactors.

Physics (29)