Photoautotrophic microorganisms (cyanobacteria and algae) offer high promise as a source of biomass for renewable energy due to their rapid growth rates and high biomass yields. To provide a framework for evaluating the feasibility of growing phototrophic microorganisms with high biomass production rates, we operated a bench-scale photobioreactor using Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 and with light conditions imitating actual day-night light irradiance (LI). During the time of peak LI, PCC6803's specific growth rate (1.7 day-1) and the nitrate uptake rate (0.46 g N/g DW day) were high compared to past reports. Analysis employing the stoichiometry of photosynthesis of PCC6803 and ionic speciation showed that bicarbonate and phosphate were driven to very low concentrations for the high-LI conditions. In particular, the systematic evaluation of rate-limiting factors identified when the CO2-Ci supply rate needed to be increased to mitigate HCO 3- depletion and a large pH increase. It also showed that the traditional BG-11 medium needs to be augmented with phosphate to avoid severe P depletion. This work exploits quantitative understanding the stoichiometry and kinetics of cyanobacteria for the high-rate production of a renewable biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-285
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Inorganic carbon
  • Inorganic nutrients
  • Photoautotrophic biomass
  • Rate-limiting factors
  • Renewable biomass
  • Stoichiometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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