The effects of hydrodynamic shear stress on the growth rate of cyanobacteria Synechocystis sp. and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii microalgae cells were studied in agitated photobioreactors, since they have different motility rates and sizes. An experimental setup was designed and constructed to monitor the growth rate of the micro-organisms versus the shear rate; experiments were carried out in a well controlled environment, under constant atmospheric pressure and 20 °C temperature. Digitally controlled magnetic agitator-photobioreactors were placed inside a closed chamber with air flow for 4 weeks, under a uniform full-time light intensity provided by two 6-watt white fluorescent light sources.
To study the effects of shear stress produced by mechanical agitation on the growth rate of a micro-organism, different agitation frequencies were tested. All reactors were filled with 150 ml of culture medium and micro-organism suspension, with initial dilution factors (mlsuspenion/mltotal volume) of 1/30 and 1/300 for Synechocystis and C. reinhardtii respectively. The vessels were placed on different agitating systems at the desired agitator rotation speed, and were sealed with a cotton membrane from the top in order to permit air exchange with the external environment. The micro-organisms’ growth was monitored daily by measuring the optical density of the suspensions using a spectrophotometer and was then correlated with the cellular concentration, which was measured in turn using a microscopic cell counter. Throughout the experiments pH levels and temperature were measured regularly and adjusted to 7 and 20 °C respectively in order to maintain the photosynthetic activity of the species.
In addition, to measure the shear stress inside the agitated reactors, a mathematical model was derived to determine the global shear stress magnitude. To determine the local shear stress distribution, the velocity field in the reactor was measured for different agitation frequencies using PIV. Different zones of high and low shear stress were identified.
The results showed that the growth rate is independent of the shear stress magnitude for Synechocystis; Synechocystis showed strong resistance, unlike C. reinhardtii, which showed linear dependence of growth rate and shear stress.