Flexible Floating Photobioreactors

Systems and Methods for Increasing Algae Production
Photobioreactors of algae

Available for Licensing
TRL: 3

IP Status

Bryan Willson

Reference No: 11-111
Licensing Manager

Jessy McGowan


At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a novel photobioreactor system for algae production systems. This photobioreactor is designed to have buoyancy and ballast tubes to orient the photobioreactor in growth medium, allowing for tunable control of algae growth and production. This allows for appropriate sparging and gas delivery to optimize algae cultures, thus producing more efficient and sustainable algae cultivation.


Algaculture is increasingly being studied as an alternate food and biofuel source. The two major types of algaculture include open and closed pond systems.  Open pond systems expose the algae to open air, potentially exposing it to contamination and harsh weather conditions. Closed pond systems, sometimes referred to as photobioreators (PBRs) provide a controlled environment to algae and are more easily manipulated to grow different types of algae. However, the gas delivery and efficient growth of algae in closed systems remain a challenge for algaculture.


The described design allows for photobioreactors that can be oriented by modifying the fluids within each chamber. The photobioreactors are flexible and are able to float in a growth medium. The method allows for sufficient gas sparging and delivery of nutrients to algacultures, and reduces the cost of algae production.

  • Increased efficiency of gas sparging in algae cultivation
  • Reduction of lifecycle cost of photobioreactors
  • Enhanced algae production
  • Reduced footprint of photobioreactor
  • Ability to modify environment and growth media for various species of algae
  • Algae cultivations for 
    • Food production
    • Biofuel production
    • Sterile uses, such as pharmaceutical or cosmetics

Last updated: January 2023