Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Dr. Byard Wood


Dr. Barton L. Smith


Of the potential feedstocks for biofuels, microalgae is the most promising, and raceway ponds are the most cost-effective method for growing mircoalgal biomass. Nevertheless, biofuel production from algae must be more efficient to be competitive with traditional fuels. Previous studies using arrays of airfoils, triangles, and squares at high angles of attack show an increase in mixing in raceways and can improve productivity by up to a factor of 2.2. Some researchers say increasing mixing increases growth due to the flashing light effect while others claim it is the decrease in the fluid boundary layer of the cells that increases mass transfer. Whatever the reason, increasing growth by increasing mixing is a repeatable effect that is desirable to both reduce operation costs and increase production.

An experimental raceway is constructed to test the effect of a delta wing (DW) on raceway hydraulics in the laboratory using fresh-water. The DW is an isosceles triangle made of plate material that is placed at a high angle of attack in the circulating raceway flow. Results from this investigation can be scaled to larger growth facilities use arrays of DWs. Two vortices are found downstream of the DW when used in this way and create significant vertical fluid circulation. Stereo particle image velocimetry (PIV) is used to quantify and optimize the use of delta wings as a means to increase fluid mixing. Stereo PIV gives three components of velocity in a measurement plane at an instant. Three studies are performed to determine the optimal paddle-wheel speed, angle of attack, and DW spacing in the raceway based on mixing. Two new mixing quantities are defined. The first is the Vertical Mixing Index (VMI) that is based on the vertical velocity magnitude, and the second is the Cycle Time required for an algal cell to complete a cycle from the bottom to the top and back again in the raceway.

The power required to circulate the flow is considered in all results. The Paddle-wheel Speed Study shows that the VMI is not a function of streamwise velocity, which makes it very useful for comparison. The Cycle Time decreases quickly with streamwise velocity then levels out, revealing a practical speed for operation that is lower than typically used and consumes only half the power. The angle of 40° is optimal from the results of the Angle of Attack Study for both VMI and Cycle Time. The third study is the Vortex Dissipation Study and is used to measure the distance downstream before the vortices dissipate. This information is used to optimize the DW spacing for profit considering the additional costs of adding DWs.


This work made publicly available electronically on October 19, 2012.