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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Radiation Characteristics of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii CC125 and Its Truncated Chlorophyll Antenna Transformants tla1, tlaX, and 37RP1-tla1

  • Author(s): Berberoglu, Halil
  • Pilon, Laurent
  • Melis, Anastasios
  • et al.

This experimental study reports, for the first time, the radiation characteristics of the unicellular green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain CC125 and its truncated chlorophyll antenna transformants tla1, tlaX, and tla1-CW+. Photobiological hydrogen production is a sustainable alternative to thermochemical and electrolytic technologies with the possible advantage of carbon dioxide mitigation. However, scale-up of photobioreactors from bench top to industrial scale is made difficult by excessive absorption and waste of light energy as heat and fluorescence. This results in limited light penetration into the photobioreactor and low solar to hydrogen energy conversion efficiency. To overcome these challenges, the algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii have been genetically engineered with reduced pigment concentrations in their photosystems. This can improve the performance of photobioreactors by increasing the saturation irradiance of algae and quantum efficiency of photobiological hydrogen production. The extinction and absorption coefficients of all strains studied are obtained from normal-normal and normal-hemispherical transmittance measurements over the spectral range from 300 to 1,300 nm. Moreover, a polar nephelometer is used to measure the scattering phase function of the microorganisms at 632.8 nm. It is established that the wild strain C.reinhardtii CC125 has major absorption peaks at 435 and 676 nm, corresponding to the in vivo absorption peaks of chlorophyll a, and at 475 and 650 nm corresponding to those of chlorophyll b. The genetically engineered strains have less chlorophyll pigments than the wild strain and thus have smaller absorption cross-sections. In particular, the mutant tlaX features a significant reduction in chlorophyll b concentration. For all mutants, however the reduction in the absorption cross-section is accompanied by an increase in scattering cross-section. Although scattering becomes the dominant phenomenon contributing to the overall extinction of light, it is mainly in the forward direction. Thus, to fully assess the effect of genetic engineering on light transport in the photobioreactor requires careful radiation transfer analysis using the radiation characteristics reported in this study.

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