In this work, we present thermal and optical analysis of a stacked photobioreactor design for growth of fuel producing photosynthetic cyanobacteria to achieve significantly higher volume and energy efficiency as compared to traditional photobioreactor designs. Our photobioreactor design incorporates racks of propagating slab waveguides [1], stacked over each other with spacing of a few hundred microns, in order to optimize light, fluid and gas delivery — the three essential ingredients for cyanobacterial growth — to the cyanobacteria growing in between the racks. The use of propagating slab waveguides provides a mechanism for efficient localized delivery of light to the cyanobacteria. However, it is important to analyze the light distribution of such waveguide systems in the photobioreactors to ensure they always remain within the optimal range for the bacteria. Further, the close packing of cyanobacteria in a closed system raises concerns regarding heat entrapment within the reactor, due to the heat produced as waste by the cyanobacteria. Higher temperatures can lead to a significant loss in efficiency in fuel producing and growth centers of the bacteria. Therefore it is important to design the reactor with appropriate thermal conditions for constraining the temperatures within optimal range for the bacteria. Here we attempt to simulate the thermal characteristics of such a system and estimate the temperature map of the system, and use these to dictate the design parameters and characteristics of the photobioreactor.

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