Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Corinne Lengsfeld, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Yun-Bo Yi

Third Advisor

Matthew Gordon

Fourth Advisor

Don McCubbrey

Fifth Advisor

Robert Dores


Biofuels, Carbon emissions, Microalgae, Optimization, Sustainability, Systems analysis


Techno-economic and systems studies on microalgal growth scenarios to date are abbreviated and missing a number of important variables. By including these variables in a detailed model integrating biology, chemistry, engineering, and financial aspects, a more defined systems analysis is possible. Through optimizing the model productivity based on the resulting net profit, the system analysis results in a more accurate assessment of environmental and economic sustainability of specific algal growth scenarios. Photobioreactor algal growth scenario optimization in the system model has resulted in realistic engineering design requirements based on algal growth requirements and fluid dynamics analysis. Results show feasibility for photobioreactor growth scenarios to be economically sustainable when co-products are included, but definite technological advancements and productivity improvements must be made. The main factors inhibiting a cost effective photobioreactor growth scenario are culture density, temperature, and lighting distribution for solar illuminated photobioreactors, and lighting cost for artificially illuminated photobioreactors. Open pond algal growth scenarios do not show any prospect of economic or environmental sustainability with current technology due to the large amount of surface area required, inefficient water use, and low culture density. All algal growth scenarios are inferior to petro-diesel regarding energy inputs, carbon emissions, and environmental sustainability. No algal growth scenarios analyzed in this study meet the U.S. requirement of biofuel emitting at least 20% less carbon emissions than diesel from crude oil.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Leah Raffaeli

File size

325 p.

File format





Alternative energy, System science, Physics