The photobioreactor experiment has started!

May 20, 2019 /

Since June 6th, the photobioreactor is inhabited by the microalgae Chlorella Vulgaris

The photobioreactor experiment went up to the International Space Station on May 4th with the SpaceX mission SpX-17, was installed in the US Lab a couple of weeks ago, and since yesterday, June 6th, is inhabited by the microalgae Chlorella vulgaris.

The photobioreactor went up to the station filled with treated “Stuttgart” water. The algae went up inside specially modified syringes and had been kept in the dark inside the refrigerator in the station. During yesterday activities, the American astronaut Anne McClain first inserted a high concentrated nutrient solution using the Liquid Exchange equipment designed and built at the IRS. The system run for about two hours, to ensure proper mixing of the solution with the water. A second activity took place on the late afternoon, to insert the 200 ml of algae, that will be cultivated inside the experiment for the coming six months. A first sample was taken, directly from a syringe, to evaluate if the launch and storage has had any effect on the algae.

The activities were closely followed in the photobioreactor monitoring room at the institute. From now on, the team in Stuttgart will be waiting for the daily update on the experiment status, to evaluate the state and performance of the microalgae.

The data will include measurements on the atmosphere inside the experiment compartment (most importantly CO2 and O2 levels), and in the algae suspension loop (most importantly the biomass concentration).

Further crew activities are planned every two weeks, to insert further nutrients and extract the produced biomass.


Picture: Astronaut Anne McClain onboard the ISS, Expedition 58 / 59 (Credit NASA)


Picture: Liquid Exchange equipment. The different syringes contain the liquids required. The High concentrated nutrient solution was stored in the yellow syringes, while the algae in green ones. The Liquid Exchange Device (up left) allows the astronauts to extract and insert the same volume of liquid simultaneously during the activity. (Credit IRS, Universität Stuttgart)


Picture: A sample return preparation at the Institute (Credit HLRS Media Service, Universität Stuttgart)


Photobioreactor Monitorning Room (Credit IRS, Universität Stuttgart)


The post-processing data program from IRS, still empty waiting for the first experiment data (Credit IRS, Universität Stuttgart)

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