The development of an algal oscillatory flow bioreactor
Ben's research was focused on the design and evaluation of an algal oscillatory flow bioreactor (OFB). The design was based on Oscillatory Flow Mixing (OFM), which has been studied in great depth over the years within the Polymer Fluids Group. The overall goal of his research was to apply OFM technology to develop a more efficient method of algal growth and CO2 sequestration, with one end product being biodiesel. The OFB is a laboratory benchtop reactor operated in batch mode and used to study algal growth as well as the reactor's intrisically unique fluid dynamics. However, the design has also been developed for eventual scale-up to a larger, continuous model.
The OFB design validation utilised computational fluid dynamics, particle image velocimetry, and flow visualisation to study the mixing and its effects on algal growth. Simulations and experimental flow visualisations showed that the OFB provides excellent mixing and offers precise control of process variables, resulting in homogeneity in heat and light distribution, as well as enhanced CO2 and nutrient delivery. Experimental evaluation has shown significant advantages over other types of bioreactors; among other things, the OFB achieved and maintained higher algal concentrations, maintained floc suspensions, and did not suffer from biofouling.