Title: assistant professor
Association/Company: Università di Padova
Eleonora Sforza graduated in Industrial Biotechnology and she obtained a PhD in Industrial Engineering, curriculum Chemical Engineering, with a thesis on: “Oil from microalgae: species selection, photobioreactor design and process optimization”. She is currently an Assistant Professor (RtdB) at the Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Padova.
She is co-responsible, with Prof. Alberto Bertucco, of all the experimental activities of the laboratory “Microalgae cultivation” at the same Dept.
The topics of her projects are related to energetic and environmental applications of microalgae, whit a multidisciplinary approach, aimed at understanding and modeling the growth of photosynthetic microorganisms in industrial reactors. She teaches “Biochemical Reactor” (6CFU) and “Bioremediation” (3CFU) courses in the master degree in “Industrial Biotechnology”, University of Padova and she is tutor and co-tutor of several Master students from Biotechnology, Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering courses. She is author of 61 papers (1346 cit, H-index 21, according to Scopus).
Technologies and innovations for microalgae cultivation
Increasing the photoconversion efficiency of artificially illuminated photobioreactors
Understanding the major bottlenecks in microalgal growth is of crucial importance for the development of economically feasible and energetically sustainable large-scale cultivation systems. Light is a key process variable, difficult to be controlled, to assure temporal stability and spatial uniformity.
In the last years, light emitting diodes (LEDs) have been investigated as a promising alternative to natural sunlight for microalgae growth, offering high durability and efficiency (less than 20% of energy is lost as heat in highly efficient LED), together with a monochromatic emission, which is useful to tune the emitted spectrum, in order to optimize light supply.
To decrease the costs associated with artificial illumination, however, improvements in both light sources and photosynthetic efficiency are required.
Photosynthesis is a low efficiency process and to date different strategies have been proposed to achieve a high level of light utilization, including the spectral matching of the light source to the photosynthetically active spectrum.
However, it should be considered that the operating condition of the system also play a role in the increase of photoconversion efficiency.
Current pilot-scale plants for microalgal production usually apply batch or semi-continuous cultivation methods, even though the continuous system should be preferred as it is the most productive. The light supply mode is also responsible of a potential increase of biomass production: flashing light can reduce the degree of mutual shading by penetrating deeper into the cultures, owing to the increased intensity of the instantaneous photosynthetic photon flux.