Photobioreactors in Life Support Systems

Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 153)


Life support systems for long-term space missions or extraterrestrial installations have to fulfill major functions such as purification of water and regeneration of atmosphere as well as the generation of food and energy. For almost 60 years ideas for biological life support systems have been collected and various concepts have been developed and tested. Microalgae as photosynthetic organisms have played a major role in most of these concepts. This review deals with the potentials of using eukaryotic microalgae for life support systems and highlights special requirements and frame conditions for designing space photobioreactors especially regarding illumination and aeration. Mono- and dichromatic illumination based on LEDs is a promising alternative for conventional systems and preliminary results yielded higher photoconversion efficiencies (PCE) for dichromatic red/blue illumination than white illumination. Aeration for microgravity conditions should be realized in a bubble-free manner, for example, via membranes. Finally, a novel photobioreactor concept for space application is introduced being parameterized and tested with the microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This system has already been tested during two parabolic flight campaigns.

Graphical Abstract


Bubble-free membrane aeration Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Energy efficiency Microgravity Mono-/dichromatic illumination Photobioreactor 



Light-emitting diode


Photo conversion efficiency




Controlled ecological life support systems


Photosynthetically active radiation


Bio dry mass


Modular life support and energy systems


Photon flux density


Pulse amplitude modulation


Dilution rate


Optical density


Photosystem II


Carbon dioxide transfer rate


Oxygen transfer rate


Carbon dioxide uptake rate


Oxygen production rate


Specific growth rate


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Bioprocess EngineeringKIT, Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.OHB Ag Life SciencesBremenGermany
  3. 3.Gravitational BiologyDLRBonnGermany

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