Light requirements in microalgal photobioreactors: an overview of biophotonic aspects

Ana P. Carvalho, Susana O. Silva, José M. Baptista, F. Xavier Malcata

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

291 Citations (Scopus)


In order to enhance microalgal growth in photobioreactors (PBRs), light requirement is one of the most important parameters to be addressed; light should indeed be provided at the appropriate intensity, duration, and wavelength. Excessive intensity may lead to photo-oxidation and -inhibition, whereas low light levels will become growth-limiting. The constraint of light saturation may be overcome via either of two approaches: increasing photosynthetic efficiency by genetic engineering, aimed at changing the chlorophyll antenna size; or increasing flux tolerance, via tailoring the photonic spectrum, coupled with its intensity and temporal characteristics. These approaches will allow an increased control over the illumination features, leading to maximization of microalgal biomass and metabolite productivity. This minireview briefly introduces the nature of light, and describes its harvesting and transformation by microalgae, as well as its metabolic effects under excessively low or high supply. Optimization of the photosynthetic efficiency is discussed under the two approaches referred to above; the selection of light sources, coupled with recent improvements in light handling by PBRs, are chronologically reviewed and critically compared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1275-1288
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Flashing light effect
  • Microalgae
  • Photo-inhibition
  • Photo-oxidation
  • Photobioreactor
  • Photosynthesis


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