Bioreactors made of Plastic Pipes for Algae Cultivation

Algae are a raw material of the future. More than 40 000 different types of algae can be used as a natural resource and processed into biomass and biofuel and are as such a sustainable means of producing energy. Because they are high in sugar, starch, oil and omega-3 fatty acids, micro-algae can be used to produce five to ten times the amount of biomass than, for example, corn or canola.

The single-cell, plant-like organisms bind carbon dioxide (CO2) during the growth process, which means this source of energy is CO2-neutral, not like conventional methods of energy generation. This highly efficient new biotechnology has substantial potential for the future. Intensive research is currently being conducted in commercial algae cultivation. GF Piping Systems was actively involved in developing the first bioreactors for algae production in the framework of an international research project in Europe and in the USA.

Development of special pipes and fittings

It was decided to use products from GF Piping Systems for all the pipe components in the contained photo-bioreactor systems (PBR). The thin-walled piping systems made of transparent polyvinylchloride developed for the pipe-shaped reactors offer good light permeability and maximum UV resistance while also ensuring a long system lifetime. Due to its specific material properties, this plastic permits enough light to be transmitted to enable and accelerate photosynthesis of the microalgae, which is crucial for producing biomass. The overall high quality and performance of the components guarantee a robust, easy and economical platform for production. In 2010 GF Piping Systems received an international innovation prize, the “Gold SolVin Award, for developing the patented special pipes.

International collaboration is key to success in research

The success of this project can largely be attributed to the valuable cooperation between the individual development partners. Other partners in the international research team, besides GF Piping Systems, were the Dutch company LGem, Technical University Wildau in Berlin, Texas University in Austin (USA) and AlgEternal, an American technology firm. The engineers and researchers succeeded in implementing theory into practice and were the first to launch a bioreactor for algae cultivation on the market. With global technical advice and training, the application continues to receive professional support even after implementation.

System and product selection:

  • 250-meter-long transparent polymer pipe, 63 x 0.5 mm
  • flanges
  • pH and temperature sensor
  • Magmeter
  • Signet 9900 transmitter
  • ball valves
  • diaphragm valves
  • switchgear 


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