Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Jason Quinn


Jason Quinn


Byard Wood


Rees Fulmer


The objective of the proposed work is to determine the productivity potential of microalgae around the world based on the current large uncertainty of the productivity
potential found in literature. To achieve this objective, a validated thermal and biological growth model was utilized coupled with weather data files from weather stations around the world. This enabled a realistic assessment of the productivity potential based on actual climatic variables. Sensitivity of microalgae lipid productivity to biomass production, temperature, and variability was performed illustrating the importance of biological and temporal resolution. Results from modeling work were leveraged for a scalability assessment based on transportation fuel consumption and land availability statistics from around the globe. A comparison of the results from this study to the current assumption in literature shows the community has dramatically overestimated the current near term productivity potential in literature.

As research into microalgae continues to grow, many studies are being performed to understand the energetic and economic feasibility of converting microalgae to biofuel. The large variability as to the true current productivity potential of microalgae has detrimentally affected large-scale assessments of the microalgae-to-biofuels system. The large uncertainty has resulted in favorable skewing of the environmental impact, economic feasibility, and resource requirements of the microalgae-to-biofuel process. The results from this study offer a better understanding of the true large-scale near term productivity of microalgae based on light, nutrient, and temperature factors to better inform future energetic and economic assessments of biofuel from microalgae.