Algal growth requires optimal irradiance. In photobioreactors, optimal light requirements change during the growth cycle. At low culture densities, a high incident light intensity can cause photoinhibition, and in dense algal cultures, light penetration may be limited. Insufficient light supply in concentrated algae suspensions can create zones of dissimilar photon flux density inside the reactor, which can cause suboptimal algal growth. However, growth of dense cultures can also be impaired due to photoinhibition if cells are exposed to excessively high light intensities. In order to simultaneously maintain optimal growth and photon use efficiency, strategies for light supply must be based on cell concentrations in the culture. In this study, a lipid-producing microalgal strain, Neochloris oleoabundans, was grown in batch photobioreactors. Growth rates and biomass concentrations of cultures exposed to constant light were measured and compared with the growth kinetic parameters of cultures grown using sequentially increasing light intensities based on increasing culture densities during batch growth. Our results show that reactors operated under conditions of sequential increase in irradiance levels yield up to a 2-fold higher biomass concentration when compared with reactors grown under constant light without negatively impacting growth rates. In addition, this tailored light supply results in less overall photon use per unit mass of generated cells. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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